Daylight is important to keep our mental and physical health on track. Too little natural̵
The natural remedy is to go outside and enjoy as much sunlight as possible. But when the seasons change and the days get shorter, it becomes difficult.
And if you live far away from the equator (think in Alaska, Canada, New Zealand, Scandinavia), there can be very little daylight in winter.
Thankfully, special lights can jump in for the sun and help mood disorders and sleep disturbances. Here's what you need to know about it.
Note: Always consult a physician before trying light therapy. Those with certain eye problems or photosensitivity may have side effects.
How does a lack of sunlight affect us?
Light receptors in our eyes trigger our brains to form certain hormones that keep us awake and balance our moods. Without the right amount of light, the brain does not make these important chemicals.
In the fall and winter, shorter days with less sunlight can mean less hormone production and in turn affect your mood. For example, if you are tired and depressed, when autumn and winter come by, it could be a lack of sunlight that you can blame. You may even have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that changes with the seasons.
In addition to mental health problems, lack of sunlight can affect your sleep. If you work in the night shift or in closed offices and seldom see the light of day, you might suffer from insomnia.
What is light therapy?
Light therapy is one way of exposing yourself to bright light when there is insufficient sunlight. Light therapy lamps or boxes simulate bright sunlight and emit much more light than the typical light bulbs in your home.
You set the lamp about 0.6 meters from your face every day for a certain amount of time. To find the right time, you should consult your doctor about your specific problem.
What can these special lamps help? Light therapy may be used to treat a variety of problems, including SAD, sleep disorders and jet lag, according to the Mayo Clinic. Studies have even shown that in patients with depression, light therapy as well as antidepressants may work. CNET's Lexy Savvides recently investigated the benefits ofwhich uses similar light therapy properties to fight jetlag.
How to Choose Your Lamp
You can buy light therapy lamps online for as little as $ 30 (around £ 23 and AU $ 42). Personally, I use a Verilux HappyLight, but most therapy lights work in a similar way.
When shopping, look for a 10,000 lux lamp, which you will find in the product description.
While lumens measure the total light output, Lux measures the intensity of that light. To be precise, a lux is the measured illuminance that is produced when a lumen is evenly distributed over an area that is about 3 square feet (about 1 square meter) in size.
Do not worry, you do not have to remember this treat. Just aim for 10,000 lux at the highest setting, and you'll be fine.
This brings me to the next point to look for: Settings. If you use the lamp during the day, you usually want a brighter setting for the beginning of the day and a dimmer setting for later in the day. This prevents you from being over-saturated with hormones that keep you awake when you try to fall asleep.
Also, make sure that your pick has a special coating or cover that filters out UV rays. If you do not, you will need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin. No, I'm not kidding …
I keep my lamp on my desk in my office at home, so I chose one that is small. However, there are very large units in the market. The size you choose depends only on where you put it and if you want to wear it when you travel.
For example, if you spend a lot of time in your workspace, choose a larger lamp that will shine on you no matter where you are in the workspace. However, this lamp would not be practical if you need to stow it in your carry-on luggage.
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