Medical Mythbuster: Can sitting in front of a bright light really help you beat the winter blues?

The shorter days of winter, with their grey skies and reduced sunlight can really affect people’s mood, leading to what is often called the “winter blues.” Fortunately, light therapy, which involves sitting next to a bright light source for 30 minutes each day, has been proven to be effective for this problem, as well as a more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Scientists believe the shorter days of winter are the main trigger for SAD. People suffering from this condition tend to become withdrawn, have low energy, oversleep, and often put on winter weight. Without any treatment, these symptoms can last until the springtime brings longer periods of sunlight. Studies have shown that light therapy, which replaces the missing daylight hours with artificial sunlight, relieves the symptoms of SAD in a majority of patients after just a few weeks of treatment. Certain antidepressant medications can also be effective in treating SAD, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

No matter what time of year it is, if you are feeling sad or depressed you should always talk to your healthcare provider. There are many effective treatments to that can help relieve symptoms, improve your mood, and help you feel better overall.

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