Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Winter Blues

The Winter Blues can be a debilitating situation, but it has a predictable pattern of recurrence during the fall and winter. Experts estimate that there may be over 44 million North Americans suffer from this milder “Winter Blues”.

Feelings of lethargy, trouble waking up and getting out of bed, cravings for heavy or carbohydrate-rich foods are primary symptoms that indicate you may be developing the Winter Blues. Generally, these symptoms sets in leading to chronic low energy, inability to do work, loss of pleasure in usual activities, etc. and becomes most acute in January and February. As days become longer, symptoms tend to clear up usually by early May.

Anyone can experience these cycles, even thought they may not occur every year. Women of childbearing age appear to be the most vulnerable, but the Winter Blues may occur from childhood through to old age, and men can be just as strongly affected as women.

Bright light therapy is simple to administer and very effective for many when they use a well-designed bright light therapy system on a regular daily schedule. Bright light may be "dosed" by changing the intensity level, the exposure duration and/or the time of day when it is used. Generally, the recommended starting dose is 10,000 LUX for 30 minutes in the morning soon after waking. Dosage is then adjusted (increased or decreased) to suit the specific user requirements.

One large study of bright light therapy, found significant clinical in about 80% of cases when bright light was scheduled at the optimum early hour. If the bright light was scheduled later, the response rate dropped to about 40%.

Should symptoms only partially improve, or not improve at all, after implementing your bright light therapy schedule, consult with your physician to determine the appropriate next steps.