Seasonal affective disorder, library lamps lighten SADness

By Danielle Nason


In the fall and winter months, many of us don’t get the amount of sunlight that is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We then miss out on the benefits that the sun’s rays provide, but the library may be able to help.   The Lincoln County Library has purchased lamps which mimic sunlight and provide many of the associated benefits.     One of the benefits of sunlight is production of  Vitamin D which strengthens your immune system, contributes to mood improvement and can even improve functioning cardiovascular system.

Do you feel like your energy has been sapped away and you feel down more often in the winter?  Do you sleep more, eat more, and want to go out less? If so, you could be experiencing seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder or (SAD).

According to the CDC, SAD is a common phenomenon that can happen at the same time every year. SAD typically begins in the fall or winter and doesn’t end until the spring or early summer.  It is also more common in women than men, and not surprisingly, it is less common in places with plenty of sunshine year-round.

According to doctor Michael Craig Miller of Harvard’s Mental Health Publishing, “If lack of sunlight causes or contributes to seasonal affective disorder, then getting more light may reverse it.”

The library’s SAD Lamps can help enhance mood, energy, sleep  and even focus , and they don’t have UV rays which can be harmful to your skin.

The Libby library has two SAD lamps available for public use.  The lamps will likely be located in the magazine reading area and in front of the second sitting area which is in front of the young adults reading section.  To use the lights, it is recommended that you sit under them with your eyes open for around thirty minutes at a time during which time you can read a magazine or check emails. Of course, just like any other light, you shouldn’t  look directly at the lamplight.

“It’s a way to not have to purchase your own (SAD lamp) or see what it’s like before you want to purchase one for yourself,” said Alyssa Ramirez, Director of Lincoln County Public Libraries.

SAD is pretty important, and it is definitely affecting people in this area, Ramirez said. It’s not necessarily something that is talked about, but we go for such long periods of time here without sunlight.

Photo of Lincoln County  Library, located at 220 6th St. in Libby, Mont. Photo by McKenzie Williams, The Montanian.

The exact causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are still unclear according to researchers.   Some scientists think that the brain triggers attitude-related changes at certain times of the year. Other experts believe SAD is related to hormonal changes. While the cause isn’t known, there is an easy way to try lifting your spirits this winter. Try taking advantage of light treatment using the Libby library’s SAD lamps.

There are a few situations in which it is not recommended to use light treatment. According to Dr. Miller, “Although light therapy is at least as effective as antidepressant medications for treating seasonal affective disorder, it doesn’t work or isn’t appropriate for everyone. Some people need more light, or brighter light. Others can’t tolerate bright light—in people with bipolar disorder, for example, it can trigger hypomania or mania. And even though the risk of eye damage from bright light is low, anyone with diabetes (which can damage the retina) or pre-existing eye disease should check with a doctor before trying light therapy.”

Researchers are working on making light therapy more effective for patients and improvements will be coming out in the years to come no doubt.

In the mean time, the Lincoln County Library staff wanted to let the public know that the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps are available for public use.

“I think resource sharing is something very helpful. Especially when it is a town as small as Libby and there are limited resources. Then these resources have so much more of an impact”, said Ramirez. ”

During the winter months it may be easy to sit comfortably inside avoiding the cold, but just 30 minutes a day of activity can help improve one’s mood drastically.  And when you are missing the sunshine,  stop by the Libby library, pick out a good book or magazine and settle in for a good read under a SAD lamp.