Seasonal Affective Disorder Winter Depression

Published by Maryann Ryan on

Primary treatments for SAD include: antidepressants, light therapy and psychotherapy. Many times a combination of these treatments are used.. Light Therapy Light Therapy is the use of full spectrum light during the fall and winter months. These lights are readily available without a prescription. They can be purchased online for under $50 and can you may be able to use a Health Savings Account with a prescription from your provider.

Light therapy is a nonpharmacological approach that has been studied and shown to have positive effect.

Three key elements for effectiveness in Light Therapy

Light therapy is most effective when you have the proper combination of light intensity, duration and timing.

  • Intensity. The intensity of the light box is recorded in lux, which is a measure of the amount of light you receive. For SAD, the typical recommendation is to use a 10,000-lux light box at a distance of about 16 to 24 inches.
  • Duration. With a 10,000-lux light box, light therapy typically involves daily sessions of about 20 to 30 minutes. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines and follow your provider’s instructions. He or she may suggest you start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the time.
  • Timing. For most people, light therapy is most effective when it’s done early in the morning, after you first wake up. Your provider can help you determine the light therapy schedule that works best. Do not look directly at the light. Even though the risk of eye damage from bright light is low, anyone with diabetes (which can damage the retina) or pre-existing eye disease should check with a doctor before trying light therapy.

Other Interventions
In addition, we encourage patients to incorporate all of the following adjunctive interventions throughout their entire course of acute (and maintenance) treatment:


● Sleep hygiene
– Sleep only as much as you need to feel rested and then get out of bed
– Keep a regular schedule
– Do not try to sleep unless you feel sleepy
– Exercise regularly, preferably at least 4 to 5 hours before bedtime
– Avoid caffeinated beverages after lunch
– Avoid alcohol near bedtime: no “night cap”
– Avoid smoking, especially in the evening
– Do not go to bed hungry
– Make the bedroom environment conducive to sleep
– Avoid prolonged used of light-emitting screens before bedtime
– Deal with your worries before bedtime
● Daily walks outside, even on cloudy days
● Aerobic exercise
● Enhanced indoor lighting with regular lamps and fixtures — Patients with winter depression who receive bright light therapy usually respond within one to four weeks of starting treatment.


Maryann Ryan

Maryann Ryan

Maryann Ryan,NPP is a psychiatric nurse practitioner working in her private practice in Warwick NY.  Knowledge is Power and we look to provide information that is accurate and timely for those with mental health issues and their families.

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