Beyond winter blues: What works

Everybody gets the winter blues from time to time, but the American Psychiatric Association estimates that up to 20 percent of the population suffers from the more serious seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A form of depression, its symptoms include difficulty waking up, all-day fatigue, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain, according to Michael Terman, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at New York's Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

If a doctor diagnoses you with SAD, bulbs from a lighting store won't help you feel better, Terman says. But another form of light can. Treatment typically involves 30 minutes of exposure to a large, diffuse, bright light each morning. The lights, which look like big, flat, TV-size lamps, seem to work as well as antidepressants, according to a recent review of SAD research in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Key features are a white bulb with an intensity level of 10,000 lux, designed to simulate outside light 40 minutes after dawn (which is thought to be the most helpful); a Kelvin rating of 4,000 or less; and no ultraviolet light that can damage eyes. "it's also important for the light to be above your head, angling downward, because it greatly reduces glare," Terman says.

If you've got SAD, ask your doctor about DaylightXL products. They're available for home use ($169 and $235; 800-858-3229, www.sphereone.com/daylightxl.htm).

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By Laurel Naversen Geraghty

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