Do long, dark winter nights get you down? For those affected with the form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the winter can be a difficult time. The National Health Service of the UK estimates that 7% of Britons are affected by SAD, and U.S. estimates hover between 4% and 6%. According to Mayo Clinic, SAD occurs most commonly during the winter months and happens because of an imbalance of melatonin production, which can disrupt the body’s internal clock and lead to depressive symptoms like anxiety, lack of concentration, irritability, and hopelessness.
The most common therapy to date involves prolonged exposure to bright light (30 minutes at 10,000 lux – with the average office lighting being around 400 lux, and a bright sunny day being between 10,000 and 25,000 lux.) However, a new study from a Finnish medical company has found that a 12 minute session of light focused in the ear canal may be just as effective in treating SAD. The researchers channel the light into photosensitive areas of the brain via the ear canal via a headset device for 12 minutes a day.