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Are We UV Deprived?

February 12, 2017 •

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with the change in season. It is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight that accompanies the autumn and winter months. SAD was first named in the 1980's by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D, who experienced episodes of low mood during the winter months in his northern US climate. He and his colleagues held a placebo-controlled study using light therapy to document the phenomena. He later published a book about SAD in 1993.

Some researchers propose that lack of adequate light also contributes to depression that is outside of SAD criteria. They believe our modern indoor lifestyles,with inadequate sun and natural light exposure, affects people of all climates, during all seasons.

Light in the eyes is thought to stimulate the pineal gland and neurotransmitter production including dopamine and serotonin. With people consistently indoors, wearing sunglasses, using UV- blocking glasses and windows in their cars and homes, proponents of this theory say people are UV deprived. They claim this UV deprivation is creating serious health consequences. Serotonin and dopamine deficiencies are linked to mood disorders, insomnia and pain syndromes. Could it be that our bodies are starving for light?

Dr. John Nash Ott, pioneer of light therapy, claimed the pain from his arthritis dissipated after his UV-blocking eye glasses broke and he could no longer wear them. He believed the light now available to his eyes and brain helped ease his arthritis pain. He dedicated the remainder of his life to researching and developing light therapy practices.

Light therapy is often used to treat SAD and depression that is outside of SAD criteria. Even people who live in southern climates, or who spend significant time outdoors (wearing caps or sunglasses), may not get enough light in their eyes, according to UV deficiency theorists.


But what happens if you are sensitive to light? Photosensivity (or sensitivity to light) is often a side affect of many medications. Photosensitivity can be a symptom of depression, adrenal insufficiency, and chronic illness. It may even be a lack of light that is causing a sensitivity to it!

Sometimes, photosensitivity can be alleviated by slow and gradual exposure to brighter levels of light. But if your photosensitivity is severe and light therapy is out of the question, there are many other options available to treat your low mood. Tryptophan and 5-HTP supplements are excellent choices to boost serotonin that is lacking from adequate light exposure.

If you suffer from seasonal or year-long depression, it is worth looking into light therapy to see if it can boost your mood. Light therapy boxes and full spectrum lighting are available for purchase to mimic effects of natural sunlight and help manage symptoms of SAD and depression.

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