Are you sad because of Seasonal Affective Disorder? A tanning bed won’t help. (Photo credit: Stock image)

Avoid falling victim to Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are many things you can do to avoid SAD, but tanning devices shouldn’t be one of them

As the cold weather starts to bite and the winter months stretch on, those looking to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be tempted to use indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanning devices. Not only is indoor tanning a dangerous habit, it does not successfully treat SAD.

Light therapy, an effective treatment for SAD, acts through the eyes and relies on visible light, whereas the dangerous UV radiation emitted by tanning beds is invisible light.

SAD is a form of depression believed to be caused by a hormonal imbalance that is commonly triggered during the shorter days of winter. Generally, levels of melatonin (a sleep-related hormone) in the body are higher at night and lower in the morning. For people with SAD, however, the cycle is often delayed, and melatonin levels remain elevated into the morning, causing them to oversleep or leaving them fatigued.

Meanwhile, the brain’s internal clock relies on early morning light to keep circadian rhythms in sync with local time, but the late sunrises of winter deny our bodies that essential signal. Depression can result when we have to keep waking up while it is still dark.

In one study, 80 per cent of frequent indoor tanners reported symptoms of SAD, and investigators speculated that some tanners use UV-emitting tanning beds to try to alleviate symptoms. But using indoor UV tanning beds seriously increases skin cancer risk. The dangers of indoor tanning are well documented: people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma, one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, by 75 per cent. Women who have ever tanned indoors are six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in their 20s than those who have never tanned indoors.

“The myth that indoor tanning is an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder is incredibly dangerous,” says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “The temporary mood boost that a tanning device may provide is not worth risking your health.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation offers these healthy alternatives to ward off symptoms of SAD:

Sit by a light box for 30 minutes each morning: A light box is a portable, visible light source that provides up to 10,000 lux (a measure of light’s intensity) and is up to 10 to 25 times as bright as ordinary lighting. A light box is equivalent to outdoor light about 40 minutes after sunrise and is beneficial in providing the body with enough visible light to decrease feelings of lethargy and fatigue by lowering the level of melatonin in the body.

Choose a light box with 10,000 lux of illumination, since those offering fewer lux are not as effective. It is also important to use a UV filter and look for soft, white lights when shopping for a light box in order to minimize both UV radiation and blue light (which can also harm the eyes). The light should project downward toward the eyes to minimize glare. There is some evidence that visible light treatment may cause skin damage. If you use a light box, be sure to apply sunscreen beforehand and cover up with clothing.

Make sleep a priority: Adjust your schedule to fit in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, and wake up earlier to take advantage of natural light. Getting enough, but not too much, sleep is beneficial to both physical and mental health and helps stabilize mood and reduce anxiety. Establishing a nighttime routine to help you fall asleep at the same time each night is key.

Maintain a balanced diet: Eating a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods, while reducing your intake of foods high in fats, sodium, and added sugars, can help improve your energy level and relieve stress.

Find time for fitness: Exercise has also been linked to improved mood, and relieves feelings of stress and anxiety, which are both symptoms of SAD. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity every week. It’s best to exercise outdoors before or after the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (when the sun’s rays are strongest). Always practice proper sun protection: this includes covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and applying a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to the entire body.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with SAD, consult your physician before making any decisions. Symptoms of the disorder include hopelessness, anxiety, increased appetite, weight gain, a heavy feeling in the arms or legs, and loss of interest in activities.

The Skin Cancer Foundation is the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection, and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. Since its inception in 1979, the Foundation has recommended following a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade and covering up with clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, in addition to daily sunscreen use. For more information, visit

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Couple wonders who’s in the Cariboo picture that’s been on their walls for years

‘We’re looking really to find out who they might be’

Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP in Lytton

Barry Shantz spearheaded getting harm-reduction services in city, changing bylaws around homeless

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Episode of ‘Twilight Zone’ TV series to film in Ashcroft

Production has already started on the episode, to be called ‘A Small Town’

VIDEO: Canada’s first presumptive case of coronavirus officially confirmed

Both patient and wife arrived on a China Southern Airlines flight after having been to Wuhan

First-place Canucks beat Blues 3-1 for ninth straight home win

Miller nets pair as Vancouver defeats Cup champs

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

NDP suggests easing secondary housing rules for B.C. farmland

Lana Popham proposes guest homes not just for relatives

After four sexual assaults in the same B.C. park, RCMP ask women not to walk alone

Four sexual assaults took place in Glen Park over two months

BC Place lights up in purple and yellow to honour Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash

Whistleblower says Iranian-Americans questioned at Peace Arch crossing were targeted

Immigration lawyer says response from Customs Border Protection is a ‘total cover up’

Most Read