Light therapy helps to beat the winter blues: study

With the first few sunny spring days upon us, the winter blues may already have been banished for another year. A new study gives scientific support to a method that may help to keep them away, Dagens Nyheter reports.

“Ten days light therapy can help to banish symptoms for up to several months,” according Cecilia Rastad at Falun psychiatric clinic in central Sweden.

Rastad explains in a new study that every fifth Swede suffers from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is is a psychological disorder characterized by depression, tiredness, decreased motivation, a tendency to sleep excessively and weight gain.

Until now there have only been preliminary studies into the effectiveness of light therapy, also known as phototherapy.

Rastad’s study chart the effects of light therapy on 50 people suffering from SAD.

A sample of the participants were each given 90-120 minutes of light therapy for ten consecutive days. 13 of the 24 participants experienced a halving of their symptoms.

The improvement was still experienced by a majority of participants a month after the treatment was given.

Rastad explains that light therapy affects levels of the hormone melatonin in the body.

Melatonin dictates the body’s daily rhythm and the light therapy basically fools our body to experience daytime, decreases melatonin levels in the blood and leaves patients feeling livelier.

The Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care (SBU) has not issued definitive guidelines on light therapy as a treatment for SAD saying that the field needs more research.