Here Comes the Sun
Lack of light can make you SAD, and alcohol can make it worse.
By Camille Chatterjee published September 1, 1998 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
Fall and winter are dark days for people with seasonal affective
disorder: their spirits dwindle along with the sun's rays. For those who
turn to alcohol to brighten their mood, an innovative form of light
therapy may help keep them sober—and cheerful.
Dawn simulation, as it's known, creates the illusion of a summer
sunrise via a lamp suspended over the patient's bed. The light from the
lamp increases in intensity from 4:30 to 6 A.M., gently easing the
sleeper into a sunny morning. After just one week of exposure to such
white light, report David Avery and colleagues at the University of
Washington, patients show much lower levels of depression than those who
wake to red light, used as a control in the studies.
Relapse is more common among drinkers with any kind of depression,
and the link between alcoholism and SAD seems to be especially strong. In
one study, 50 percent of the female patients in an alcohol abuse program were
also diagnosed with the seasonal disorder. Researchers suspect that both
alcoholism and SAD are linked to problems with regulation of serotonin,
the brain's feel-good neurotransmitter.
Even if the simulated sunrises don't directly affect patients'
alcohol problems, says Avery, they do seem to alleviate their melancholy
and help correct their sleep cycles, which often get off-track during