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THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

The student news site of Aspen High School

THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

The student news site of Aspen High School

THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

Shedding Light on Light Therapy

Junior+at+AHS+working+on+an+assignment+while+using+Steve+Sands+light+box.
Sara Michelin
Junior at AHS working on an assignment while using Steve Sand’s light box.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as seasonal depression in the media, occurs when the days get shorter and the air gets colder. As a result of the lack of sunlight during the winter months, serotonin levels are lacking as well. Almost half a million people have recurring seasonal depression in the US. According to The Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of SAD can include changes in sleep, appetite, or weight, as well as feeling anxious, angry, and fatigued.

Some doctors recommend light therapy for SAD and standard depression. Light therapy uses a light box that mimics outdoor light. Generally, a lightbox emits 10,000 lux of light and produces as little UV rays as possible. This kind of light is meant to trigger a chemical shift in the brain to improve mood and reduce the symptoms of SAD. Light boxes are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so you can purchase one without a prescription, but the cost may not be covered by your health insurance provider.

To properly use a light box, you want to set it up 16 to 24 inches away from you and be sure to not look directly at the light since it is bright. Use the box within an hour of waking up for about 30 minutes. Note that if you are someone who is new to light therapy, you may want to start with shorter increments.

Light therapy is convenient, given that you can use it while reading in the morning, or simply eating breakfast. It is a noninvasive tool, providing an alternative option to help with SAD rather than taking medication.

While light therapy might work for some, it does not work for all. You may want to avoid this treatment if you have sensitive skin, eye conditions, or a history of skin cancer. There are also side effects, like a lot of treatments. Some have reported headaches, eye strain, insomnia, euphoria, fatigue, and irritability. If you use a light box properly, these side effects are rare. Talk to your doctor if you think light therapy is a good option for you.

Achieving results with light therapy takes time, and requires consistent use. It is important to understand that everyone’s mental health story is unique. While seasonal depression passes as the summer rolls around, it is just as valid. This is a reminder to check up on your friends and family and ask how they are doing.

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About the Contributor
Sara Michelin, Staff Writer
This is Sara's second year writing for The Skier Scribbler. She enjoys the people she gets to work with while writing for the paper. Sara is also a competitive swimmer on both the high school and club teams. Also, Sara has a twenty-pound cat named Gummybear.

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