Episode 151: The SAD Lamp

Can a lamp help you beat the winter blues?

In the latest Heart Health Radio, Dr. Franklin Wefald talks about depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Dave Alexander: Are people getting sick more during this period of time?

Dr. Frank Wefald: Yeah, and I think a lot of it has to do with the stress.

And then there’s one big thing I think people need to understand, especially lately. You know, we have had no sunny days until the last couple of days and I noticed that I was just really getting down. It’s called seasonal affective disorder.

Now some people get it not just because it’s rainy and cloudy but we have a smaller amount of sunshine because of the way the season is. You know, in the summer you get 14 or 16 hours of daylight and now we’re getting 8 or 9 maybe. And so, the circadian..that’s what it’s called, circadian rhythms. Believe it or not, the amount of sun that hits our face affects the neurotransmitters in our brains. And so, for some people having less sunlight can really bring on depression.

New York Magazine has an article about SAD lamps here.

Now thankfully there is something I use. It’s very inexpensive. You can get it on Amazon for 30 bucks and it’s called a full spectrum SAD lamp. SAD, it’s really sad, but Seasonal Affective Disorder, S-A-D, sad. You sit in front of this thing for 20 minutes and it perks you up.

It brings up your neurotransmitters, the happy ones, the serotonins and the norepinephrines and the dopamine. It works for a lot of people. It doesn’t work for everybody. It perked me up the last week. I mean, I came into the office on Monday and said, “I don’t want to do this, I’m just down”. So, the SAD lamp came from Amazon and I put it up next to my computer. I turned it on full blast.

It doesn’t give you sunburn. It’s not a UV lamp, it’s what they call a full spectrum lamp. So, you know the rainbow having all those different colors, you know from purple to red, yellow, green and blue? So that full spectrum hits your face. It’s like sunlight except without the sunburn. I feel like this warmth all over my face. I really felt a difference that afternoon. Now, whether it’s psychological or not, it doesn’t matter. You know if it’s a placebo effect, it doesn’t matter, I was happy.

SAD therapy light on a stand
Image credit: Hobbr. An article on SAD lights is here.

Dave Alexander: I can tell you, not that this is seasonal affective disorder, but there is this sort of … “I’m driving to work in the dark and I’m coming home in the dark disorder. Or I leave work and the sun is out but then it goes down while I’m driving home.”

Dr. Frank Wefald: So, take this seriously. If you’re down and you’re feeling blue. If it’s really serious please see your doctor right away.

Dave Alexander: Is it really called SAD, seasonal affective disorder?

Dr. Frank Wefald: Yeah, SAD. What you need to do on Amazon is search SAD lamp, S-A-D lamp. They have a bunch. Don’t think you have to buy the most expensive one. They all work and it depends on how big they are. Now I bought one that has four different levels of intensity because I like to dial it down a little bit and dial it up a little bit. But I really endorse them. I’m not endorsing one single brand but if you’re really down, if you’re really depressed don’t just rely on the SAD lamp. Go see your doctor because he or she may diagnose you with clinical depression and you may need extra help.

We also talked about getting the right amount of sleep, former Vice-President Joe Biden’s health and childhood obesity.

Find Heart Health Radio at Apple Podcasts, WPTF.com or listen to the latest episodes by clicking here. .

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