How to Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder When Traveling

For those unfamiliar with seasonal affective disorder, a brief overview of the condition found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders expresses that it is a type of depression that has many of the same characteristics of ‘normal’ depression, such as loss of appetite, sadness, and lack of energy.  How it differs is that, as the name suggests, it is seasonal in when it occurs. 

This is typically found during the winter months, particularly in late fall.  In essence, it is a person being adversely affected by the changing of light patterns given the time of year. 

Because this is an issue that follows those suffering from it anywhere, finding out how to handle seasonal affective disorder when traveling is extremely important.

Though an inexact science, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is thought to manipulate an individual’s circadian rhythm. 

Circadian rhythm has a direct correlation to a person’s sleep habits, which in turn often alters their temperament.  Put simply, when there is less light in the winter months, it ‘tricks’ the brain into thinking there is less time to sleep. 

This is because the amount of melatonin and seratonin are reduced due to the lack of light.  Seasonal affective disorder and light therapy together can solve this problem.  This solution is found in the use of SAD lamps.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of psychological disorder that affects people’s mood. Characteristics of this disorder include sleeping too much or too little, sadness, appetite loss, and lack of energy.

This disorder can come with appetite changes and weight gain.

Seasonal Affective Disorder affects roughly 2% of the world population, which is a big deal. As the name suggests, Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs seasonally.

Patients usually have this disorder during the winter season. As you may know, sunlight usually hides behind clouds in the winter season, creating a change of light patterns.

This change of light patterns is what affects patients.  

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) manipulates a person’s circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm helps you sleep at night and stay awake and alert in the daytime.

Simply put, it is the body’s internal clock. Your ability to function will be affected when your body’s circadian rhythm is out of order or upset.

SAD happens anywhere and anytime. It is not restricted to any country, state, or locality. Find out how to treat and manage this disorder when you are traveling.  

There are different solutions for treating SAD, but the safest and most effective solution is light therapy.

Light therapy uses devices that expose patients to bright light that mimics sunlight/natural light from outside. These light devices work by stimulating Melatonin and Serotonin, which are chemicals that improve sleep cycles.

This device acts as a replacement for the missing winter lights. Daily exposure to light devices can help you feel more awake and less melancholy. 

Traveling with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Traveling is a time to have fun and experience new things, especially if traveling for pleasure and not for business.

Perhaps you have made plans on the adventures you will have, the people you will meet, the food you will eat, and the pictures you will take.

You are happy and excited about your plans until you are not. The sad fact is that SAD can hit you anytime. You may be feeling excited and bubbly one moment and sad and tired the next moment.

Traveling can be draining and can affect your mental health. Sometimes the sad moments will only last a few days, but most times the sad moments become more than sad moments.

Having depression while traveling is a terrible feeling. Even if you are trying to have fun, it can creep in and ruin your trip. SAD is more common than most people think.

If this happens to you when you are on a trip, know that you are not alone, and there are suitable ways to treat and manage your depression.

It is easy to feel anxious and exhausted when traveling because you are exposed to new situations during your trip.

These feelings of exhaustion and anxiety sometimes become overwhelming and amplified, causing seasonal affective disorder. This is when you need to find a solution.

Some symptoms you may experience are appetite loss, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, and more. You may even lose interest in your vacation, which is problematic.

Getting the most out of your trip should be your goal when traveling. It is hard to know what to do when you are dealing with SAD on your vacation.

This disorder can make you feel bad inside, leading to a lack of energy to do things like keeping a consistent sleep schedule, eating healthy, and even showering.

Your emotional feelings usually translate to physical feelings. So, if you feel bad emotionally, you will start to feel bad physically. This situation can lead to a cycle; feel bad emotionally, feel worse physically, and vise versa. If left untreated, SAD feeds itself until you feel powerless.

Like we earlier said, there is hope if you have SAD. Not only is light therapy safe and effective, but many light therapy devices are compact and travel-friendly.

These light therapy devices are referred to as SAD lamps. 

What Are SAD Lamps?

SAD lamps are a form of light therapy designed to reverse the effects of the disorder by shining light at times your brain would normally think are necessary.  An instance of this would be early evening that is far darker in the fall than it is during Spring or Summer. 

Typically sad lamps have adjustable settings to be able to change the amount of light you are receiving.  This is important in calibrating it to your lifestyle, or in this case, traveling. 

Figuring out how to use a SAD lamp can seem intimidating, but is in actuality very straight-forward.

SAD lamps are a form of light therapy designed to mimic the sunlight. It gives healthy light and removes harmful UV light.

SAD lamps use their lights to reverse the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Research has shown that light helps inform the brain to make less Melatonin, thereby causing a mood boost.

SAD lamps come with adjustable settings where you can either increase or decrease the amount of light you want to receive.

You can include SAD lamps in your lifestyle or when traveling without any problems. Sad lamps are safe, effective, and easy to use.

Sometimes you may need only light therapy and no medications. Ensure you get a SAD lamp if you have symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Why Are SAD Lamps Ideal For Travel?

The benefits of a portable SAD lamp, such as the Verilux Happylight Liberty Portable SAD Lamp, are many because they give users the freedom to address their condition anywhere. 

In addition to the ailment itself, travel will change your circadian rhythm from time change and jet lag.  SAD lamps serve as a bridge for you to get back on ‘schedule;’ something that is hugely important to anyone suffering from this type of depression. 

Because your demeanor and well being are a result of how refreshed you feel, a SAD lamps’ presence is crucial in that it can give you the amount of light therapy necessary for you to feel normal. 

Portable SAD lamps make for a swift and easy solution if you are on the go for vacation, business, or otherwise. 

SAD lamps are also wise in handling this condition during travel because almost every unit is relatively small in size and easy to transport.

There are many portable SAD that let users address their SAD wherever they are.

People that don’t have seasonal affective depression can also use these devices. Traveling can upset your circadian rhythm causing mild sadness and fatigue.

You don’t have to wait till you have symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder before using SAD lamps. You can use SAD lamps to pick yourself up from jet lag and the time change that comes with traveling abroad.

You can use SAD lamps to get back on track, especially if you have important plans.

SAD lamps are crucial for people suffering from SAD.

It will give them the amount of light necessary for them to function. SAD lamps are a swift solution if you are on a trip since you can pack them and pull them out whenever you need them.

Like I said earlier, most SAD lamps are compact and easy to transport.

What Are The Best SAD Lamps To Handle Your Disorder On The Road?

There are many SAD Lamps in the market today. These lamps effectively manage SAD and are ideal for treating other disorders apart from SAD. Choosing the best SAD lamp depends on how you react to light personally.

The prices of SAD lamps differ. You can find anywhere between $60 to over $200.

The good news is that you can find an ideal SAD lamp for $100 or less. When purchasing a SAD device for travel, buy a compact one.

Most SAD lamps over $200 are standing lamps which are a hassle to carry when traveling.

Options will also set apart the best SAD lamps from the ineffective ones.

Options such as desk mounts, travel pouch, weight, and light adjustment are also factors that decide the best SAD lamps for your travel.

You can buy a red light therapy device or light therapy glasses if you don’t want to get a SAD lamp since they are more compact, portable, and ideal for traveling.

How Do You Put SAD Lamps To Use When Traveling?

Unless you need a lamp due to excessive jet lag and a totally flipped schedule, most commonly you can handle seasonal affective disorder by using your devices as you would wake up and go to bed in the summer months, or times you are not bothered by this depression. 

For example, if typically you are used to it still being light out when working in the early evening, adjust your lamp so that the proper amount is emitted at a time it is getting darker due to the winter months. 

You can also mount your lamps on hotel room desks or windows to simulate light when you are in a place you are unfamiliar with.  The most important way to get a handle on your disorder when not at home is to maintain consistency. 

Use your lamp at the same times every day to give your brain a chance to relax and follow a pattern that will help you sleep and improve your mood.

Seasonal affective disorder is a concerning, but not impossible condition to overcome.  Adding travel to this disorder can give anyone anxiety, but you can fill in the gap with the proper usage of a lamp. 

Like a pill helps a headache go away by calibrating your brain levels, the same is true of light levels to produce positive melatonin output.

If you can’t get outside, then you may want to grab a light therapy box. Check out our reviews and our best SAD lamp buying guide.

You can easily use your SAD lamp when traveling. All you have to do is mount the lamp on your hotel room desk, window, or any flat surface that you are comfortable with.

When you are ready to use your SAD lamp, put it on and sit by the light for a specific length of time. You don’t have to look directly into the light.

The light has to enter your eyes without you looking at it directly. All you need is for the light to hit your skin, and you are good to go. Make sure the device is 16-24 inches away from your face and 30 degrees overhead.

When you are done placing your device, sit in front of it for 20-30 minutes or for the length of time your doctor recommends. Though you can use your SAD lamp at any time of the day, using it in the morning is best.

Maintaining consistency is important when treating your disorder. Use your device same time every day to enable your brain to follow a pattern that will improve your sleep and mood.

Choosing a SAD lamp for you

In the market today, you will find many devices marketed as SAD lamps.

Some of these devices are either ineffective or not appropriate for SAD use. When purchasing a SAD light, ensure you buy one designed to treat the seasonal affective disorder.

Be careful when selecting a SAD lamp, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are so many factors and features to consider when choosing the perfect SAD lamp for home use and for traveling. These factors and features include:

Can you use a Sad Lamp?

SAD lamps are safe and effective, but some people cannot handle exposure to very bright light.

People with light-sensitive conditions, eye damage, and people that take medications that increase sensitivity to light should consult with their doctor before using a SAD lamp.

Does Light Therapy Lamps have UV light?

Avoid SAD lamps that have a UV light. When purchasing a SAD lamp, ensure it is labeled UV-free. UV light is harmful and should be avoided.

Light Therapy Lamp Intensity and Control

The recommended intensity to effectively treat SAD is 10,000 lux. If you are sensitive to light, you can get a SAD light that emits bright white light at least 2,500 lux to benefit from the effects.

You may have to use a lamp with less lux more often than lamps with more lux. Also, choose a SAD lamp that has buttons you can use to control the intensity of light.

Size of Lamps

If you are looking to travel with your SAD lamp, get one that is compact and portable.

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