Light therapy 'could cure winter blues'

An estimated one million working hours could be lost by British industry in the next few months due to ‘‘winter blues,’’ a leading doctor warned today.

An estimated one million working hours could be lost by British industry in the next few months due to ‘‘winter blues,’’ a leading doctor warned today.

Professor Chris Thompson, Head of the School of Medicine at the University of Southampton says as the nights draw in, 16% of the working population suffer from a lack of energy and motivation.

‘‘The reason why normally healthy people, who enjoy life to the full between April and October become tired, irritable and without energy immediately summer time ends, is a lack of light,’’ he said.

‘‘Winter blues is not just a psychological hatred of winter. The symptoms interfere with people’s ability to carry on their daily lives.’’

Prof Thompson said 90% of adults in the UK experienced subtle changes in their moods, energy and sleep pattern when the seasons changed.

Around 5% of the population experience a severe reaction because they are suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

He said winter blues, suffered by 22% of the population who visit their GP, is a mild form of SAD.

‘‘Light is vital to our well being. Lack of daylight creates a biochemical imbalance in that part of the brain that regulates many body functions especially mood, energy and sleep,’’ said Prof Thompson.

One possible solution, he said, is light therapy which can alleviate symptoms by resetting the body’s internal clock to make it think it is summer - ‘Sit in front of it for about an hour or two each day, preferably in the morning. Your body reacts as if the sun is shining and you will very soon be feeling more like yourself.

‘‘The symptoms should be alleviated within four to five days and within a month they should have disappeared,’’ he maintained.

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