Smart integrated in-house lighting for seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Image credit: pexels/João Jesus
Subash ChapagainNov 14, 2022
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Among many other factors, Vitamin D status and the body’s capacity for Vitamin D uptake have been described to be linked to several physiological and psychological anomalies like osteoporosis, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Moreover, recent decades have seen an upsurge in accumulated evidence that show that Vitamin D has direct links to affective disorder, schizophrenia, and depression.
Vitamin D deficiency is defined by most experts as a 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of less than 20 ng per millilitre (50 nmol per litre). Expert estimates are that over one billion people have either vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency. The human body cannot directly produce Vitamin D, rather it has to get it from exposure to sunlight, from the diet or from dietary supplements. Solar UV B light (wavelength, 290 to 315 nm) penetrates the skin and converts 7-dehydrocholesterol to pre-vitamin D3, which is rapidly converted to vitamin D3.
While Vitamin D is a key player in maintaining overall health, it has been found that geographical location and latitudes are direct determinants of how much Vitamin D is prevalent in individuals. Especially, in the geographical locations that are far north or south of the equator, Vitamin D deficiency is seen to be more prominent. This deficiency is aggravated during the winters when the light exposure is even diminished more. In fact, studies have proven that even in the presence of enough exposure to sunlight in the northern hemisphere, people still had a lower level of Vitamin D. The lower levels of Vitamin D (as a result of lower exposure to adequate light) are correlated with the seasnal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is defined as resurgent episodes of atypical depression with typical symptoms including hypersomnia, hyperphagia (carbohydrate craving), and weight gain. These symptoms are usually seen with the onset of winter and are different from non-seasonal depressive episodes.
Bright Light Therapy and SAD
In light of all the research data that correlates light exposure and Vitamin D prevalence to SAD, studies have shown that bright light therapy can be used to reduce depressive symptoms. More specifically, when the patients were exposed to bright white full-spectrum fluorescent light of 2,500 lux for 3 hours at dawn and 3 hours at dusk for two weeks, their depressive symptoms significantly decreased. Based on these and several similar findings, a lot of SAD lamps are now marketed and sold in the market.
The phase-shift hypothesis of SAD states that in SAD patients, there is a dissociation of the circadian rhythm and the sleep-wake cycle, which results in a season-long jet lag with depressive symptoms. When bright light therapy is applied, the light exposure causes a ‘phase’ correction and rectifies the dissociation.
Based on all of the above-mentioned evidence, the idea is to develop an integrated-in house smart lighting system that takes cues from your biological data as well as from geographical location and adjusts the appropriate intensity and quality of light to avoid seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Why?The present-day SAD lamps in the market are all plug-and-play, and they are not smart. They have to be manually used.
An integrated smart SAD lighting would sense the lighting conditions and change in daylight during different seasons, and accordingly adjust the intensity of the light.
The light can be even optimized with other devices, for example, smartwatches and mobile phones such that appropriate time and appropriate quantity/intensity of time can be tailored for every individual. This will allow the integrated system to modulate the lighting differently in different even within the same house/apartment.
Some key things to think:
1. What physical parameters about the light system do we need to do?
2. How to keep the system secure (in terms of personal data)?
3. How can we integrate it with all other devices and systems for the best of benefits?
4. How to make it the safest possible (reduce side effects), and economic?
SAD lamps that have analog switches which can manually regulate the brightness of the lamps can equally solve the convenience and regulation problem that present-day 'plug and play' SAD lamps have.
I also think there won't be a need to record the users biological data as it would complicate the system unnecessarily. ( Most people would rather consume dietary supplements than buy a stand-alone smart light system just to get more vitamin D)