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Technology and SAD

November 28, 2019 • Tech Tips

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and the incidence of SAD (seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression related to the lack of sun and most likely to a lack of vitamin D) is increasing. Luckily, there is technology to help with SAD symptoms.

Sunlamps and Light Therapy Boxes

Sunlamps typically emit UV rays, and therefore help us produce vitamin D. Experts worry that this can increase your risk of skin cancer, so they typically recommend light therapy boxes that don’t emit any UV rays instead. To be useful for fighting seasonal affective disorder, the intensity of the light has to reach 10,000 lux, so it isn’t just any old light bulb that does the trick. To be effective, you must sit close to the light, ideally in the morning, and use it for 15-30 minute session(s). Don’t look directly into the light either, unless you really, really hate having eyesight.

You can check out some options here.

Blue Light Filters

A major part of what drives SAD is the change in our circadian rhythm, or internal clock. The cycle regulates our sleep/wake patterns, but also our hormones. Exposure to unnatural light at night can disrupt our natural rhythms and affect the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone. And you can’t really affect one hormone without affecting others, including some stress hormones.

If you can’t break the habit of using your electronics before bed, then using a blue light filter on your phone or tablet at night can help prevent health issues These electronics emit a short wavelength blue light, which mimics the sun enough that it messes with our sleep (and hormone) cycle. Installing a blue light filter doesn’t affect anything during the day, but at night, it changes the lighting on your screen so playing on your phone doesn’t mean missed sleep, and changes to your mood. Twilight is a good one for Android users (or if you have an Android 10, you can enable night mode If you have iOS, you can activate the Apple version called Night Shift.

Reduce SAD with a Depression App

Though not specific to Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are plenty of apps that people use to help them deal with depression. There are apps that help you to destress and sleep, like Calm. If you have a tendency to spiral or get stuck in destructive thinking patterns, this CBT (cognitive-behaviour therapy) thought tracker can help you identify patterns of thought and deal with them before they get out of control. Apps like Better Help connect you with licensed, accredited and experienced counselors, through the comfort of your phone.

There is also a great list of some well-regarded apps here.

Technology and SAD: a perfect match!

Technology gets a bad reputation sometimes for contributing to loneliness and isolation. But, like anything, technology is a tool. With the right tools, you can feel better. There is technology to help with SAD – it’s just about finding what fits for you.

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