Wednesday, November 9, 2011


SAD Song

"These two trials show that bright light channeled into the brain via ear canal is an important future method to treat seasonal affective disorder."
—SAD sufferers can reportedly improve their moods by looking like they have no idea how to use an iPod for between eight and 12 minutes a day. Valkee the light-shining, "winter brightening" gadget is currently available for $295. (And here's their FAQ section, if you're interested.)

48 Comments / Post A Comment

fondue with cheddar

Sad songs say so much.


@jen325 Oh la la la...Oh la la la


No lie, this would be awesome!
I tried one of those light therapy lamps last year and, well, Amazon has it back now : (

Stupid Daylight Savings. Stupid Minnesota 6 month winters.


@NeverOddOrEven Sadface :( I have a light (a Lumie Zip) but I only use it in dead of winter when my St John's Wort doesn't work as well. Though this year I'm just inclined to up my SJW dosage, because it works better than anything else I've tried, and doesn't involve blinding myself for half an hour a day.


@glitterary You hopefully already know this, but watch out for SJW if you're on hormonal birth control!


@NeverOddOrEven Yeah, I've stopped taking the Pill because of that. Totally worth it. And I love the Pill.


@glitterary I have Paraguard, the copper IUD, and it's the best thing I've ever done for myself. Truth.


@NeverOddOrEven Main reason I do not have an IUD: I do not like the idea of strings down there. Also I bloody love condoms. But mostly the idea of strings hanging out.


@glitterary Ah, well for what it's worth I never notice them and neither does my husband.
But if you love condoms, sex on lady! You're about the only person I know who's enthusiastic about them, though.


@glitterary Also, take Vitamin D supplements. I've had tremendous success. I really, really want to try this thing. Shooting light into my ears sounds way awesome.

Edited to say: WAIT. You only get to do it for 8-12 minutes at a time? What a jip (gyp? gip?).

bouncy castle

@NeverOddOrEven I have that one too and it is so, so amazing. I even get excited about getting real periods again after so many years of fake ones. Plus my SO calls it my steampunk womb which is totally hilarious.

edited to add: I never feel the strings, neither does he. Sometimes I check for them if I'm feeling paranoid, which by the way is NEVERRRRR


@NeverOddOrEven Do they not get icky? Like, I always imagine a tampon string which has been there for months, which is probably completely incorrect, but ugh. I don't like the idea of someone reaching up there during foreplay and encountering them! Condoms keep things tidy and catch all the mess! And you know for sure they've worked. Also some of the nobbly ones are very good. (INSPIRAL, people. omg.)

But all that aside, if I could have an IUD without the strings, I so would.


@sox Way awesome until they tell us in 5 years that it's going to give us all brain or ear cancer.

All things lead to cancer.


sarah girl

@NeverOddOrEven The strings are not at all like tampon strings! First of all, they're REALLY thin and pliant; really, only a little thicker than a strand of hair. They start out a little stiff when you first get the IUD, but soften quickly over the first month or so. Also, they usually end up naturally curling up near your cervix, so they're totally out of the way.

The only time I had a partner encounter the strings was during the first month before they softened; after that, absolutely nothing. I also have only felt them... maybe once while doing period-related things (tampon/cup/whatever). Seriously, they are so not even a thing. Don't let them stop you from getting it if you're really interested!!


@glitterary Well they can be trimmed, and are made of a fishing line-like material so it's not like anything sticks to or is absorbed by them.
And again, I never notice it and a partner has felt it *maybe* once, but anyone that would be freaked out about it after a quick explaination isn't worth letting up in my vag anyway.


@NeverOddOrEven @Sarah H. Hmm, interesting. Thanks for the info! But like fishing wire, you say? Isn't that poky and oh god it makes me imagine having sharp cheesewire in my lady parts? And if they end up so far up, then what is even the point of them? If IUDs last years, why have strings at all? I don't like the idea of Something Up There That I Know Is There And Has Been For Months. Am I weird? Everyone says the IUD is so good. It just squicks me in weird ways. Maybe I should ask my GP.


@NeverOddOrEven My Auntie has a magnifying lamp to use for sewing and gave one to my Mom, which would be awesome if the lightbulbs didn't cost a couple hundred to replace.


@glitterary They don't poke, and the purpose is so that you can check to make sure the IUD is still in place. If you're not able to find the strings then it may have migrated and then would need to be adjusted or removed.
Hey, to each their own. If it squicks you out then it squicks you out! I just feel the same way about messing with my hormonal ballance so I went this route.


you know what else cures SAD? a bottle of wine and a re-reading of Emily of New Moon. science!


@heyits I fucking love that book.


@thebestjasmine me too! In some ways I like it more than AoGG. (I know, blasphemy)


@heyits Anne is better for spring and summer, because she's so bright and cheerful. But Emily is a little darker, and so cuddling up to read about her in the winter is just perfect.


As someone who (probably) has SAD, I am tempted to call shenanigans--but man, this would be awesome if it worked. At the moment I rely on St John's Wort more than light therapy, but I do have a wee lightbox that I use when it gets really bad, to some effect. I wouldn't spend money on it yet, but it would be pretty shiny (BAZINGA) if this turned out to work--my lightbox is too bright to let me do anything else while I'm using it.


@glitterary Does the St John's Wort work well? I am pretty sure I had SAD this winter (everything was hard. Got full spectrum lights: less hard. Spring came: WAY less hard!) and man I need to avoid that again next year because is sucked.


@Craftastrophies For me, it has worked better than anything else. It's been trial and error, though, because I live in the UK and doctors are somehow sniffy about it--I get it from health food shops. There's a Cochrane review looking at studies about it here: http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD000448/st.-johns-wort-for-treating-depression, but my favorite lay-person accessible explanation is here: http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.com/2009/07/st-johns-wort-perfect-antidepressant-if.html

I've had to decide on my own dosage--what I've found is that I wasn't getting results until I realised I need more than just one c. 300mg (the usual dosage per tablet) per day. It's only last year that I started using it (in conjunction with a lightbox, though I was lazy enough with that that I'm not sure how helpful it was) so I haven't fine-tuned how much I need or how best to take it yet, but it feels very promising.

At the moment I'm on just under 800mg, and I intend to increase that as it gets darker and then go off it slowly as it gets lighter. It has very few side-effects (not being compatible with hormonal birth control is the biggest) and unlike the synthetic antidepressants (Citalopram) I've taken in the past it doesn't numb or demotivate me. So all in all I'd say it's totally worth a try, with the benefits far outweighing tiny risks.

I also have a friend with SAD for whom SJW didn't really do anything though, but she swears by 5-htp, which is a precursor to serotonin. She lives in the US and had it prescribed by a doctor, but in the UK (like SJW) you can only get it in health food shops. I tried it (with no effect), but I think taking it is more complicated than SJW--I think it needs to be at a certain time of day--so I'd caution against it without guidance.


@glitterary Thankyou, that is really useful. I had it recommended a while back but I was on exactly the least compatible hormonal birth control so never looked into it.

I might seek it out - I didn't go to a doctor etc this winter because... well, mostly because I just thought I was being lazy and it wasn't until everything stopped being hard that I realised it was more than that. But also because it wasn't at a level that I thought needed medication, because everyone I know who's on anti-ds has side effects that are worse than my symptoms. So SJW sounds about the right level? I will definitely try it out. Thanks :)

Oh, squiggles

Two thoughts:

One-How much does it suck that sunlight gives us cancer, but also makes us happy, and we make vitamin D with it? Ugh!

Two- Anyone else tempted to try shining a flashlight in their ear? I mean, whatever, I've done weirder.

Edith Zimmerman

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I have one of those blue LED things on my keychain.


@Edith Zimmerman Whoah, what? Keychain?
Is this just designed as a flashlight or is it actually supposed to be used for light therapy?

Faintly Macabre

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yeah, the explanation made me wonder if I could just hold my iPod next to my ear. If I had $300 to spend on a light, I might not be so SAD!

Oh, squiggles

Also: the amazing wonder of light! It can make you happy, treat acne, remove hair, restore hair. It even travels at the speed of...well, light actually. It heals the blind, and can make the sick see!

Get your super fancy patented sciencey light now, cause the regular stuff just lying around everywhere just won't cut it!


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yes, that was my first thought. 'What happens if you just stick a flashlight in your ear?" You know what? I am going to try it. Why not? It isn't like my ears are going to go blind from staring at the light - worth a shot.


@Beericle It probably has to be a certain spectrum to work.


$295 seems, uh, a little excessive. Like, it might be cheaper to buy weed you're not going to smoke from a grow-house and linger with your head titled.


This is a Finnish invention, yay. Or boo, because our Arctic circle Decembers demand silly inventions like this. Apparently it works though, at least it has been tested (with success) at our northernmost University. I should move to Australia.


@PompousModesty Reporting from Australia that people here get SAD, too. It's just that winter is shorter, so we get over it 'quicker'.

all the kittens in the club gettin nipsy

Has no one else had the thought OMG INNER EAR SUNBURN!? That was the first thing that occurred to me. The pain, the itching, the skin peeling... and then possibly inner-ear melanoma? DO NOT WANT. Can someone use science to convince me that these fears aren't true?


@100kb Haha! It won't be as bright as the sun--even the brightest SAD lamps come nowhere near, and they don't emit invisible light (like IV and infra-red), certainly not in any harmful levels.

all the kittens in the club gettin nipsy

@glitterary ok... so I know tanning booths are cancerous because of the UV light. Which is the thing that actually triggers the tanning reaction, yes? And SAD lights don't emit UV? Why didn't I know that! I was afraid of getting a SAD light because I thought it would be essentially a mini cancer machine.

I'm also afraid of the price, but on the other hand it's cheaper than a winter's worth of extra therapy sessions.


@100kb Yeah, SAD lights--good ones, make sure to check--filter out the UV (e.g.: http://www.lumie.com/help/research-abstracts/full-spectrum-light --this is the company that makes my lightbox. I have a Lumie Zip). Price-wise they are pretty steep though, I and I would caution against assuming they'll solve all your problems. A lot of places that sell SAD lights also allow you to rent them, or have a trial period of a month or so, and if you don't feel it's made a difference you can send it back for a refund.


It would be fun to meet someone on a long flight who was using this technique AND had flashlights taped to the backs of both knees to avoid jetlag.


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Light doesn't... it can't get... white LEDs don't cost... blood/brain barrier... inner ear... ARGHHHHBLBLB


i wanted one of those last year but it wasn't available yet. i just wanted one that wasn't so plasticy and electronicy. instead i went to a specialty light bulb store and came out with 3 light bulbs for like $30 that fulfills all my SAD needs and fit into my regular lamps.

also, i live in the pacific northwest and my doctor says we should all be taking vitamin d.


@propermake I bought vitamin D gummy bears because the only way I remember to take vitamins is if they're in delicious gummy bear form.

throwaway style

$295...or you could buy a flashlight for $2.95.


I think I have the opposite of SAD (DAS?). Once it starts to get dark, frosty and gloomy outside, I become complete giddy and rapturous. Cosy sweaters! Acoustic music! Aimee Mann's Christmas album!


I am not able to get over this whole "channeled into the brain via ear canal" thing. Like, the ear canal is bendy. And then there's the ear drum, and the ossicles, and the vestibular portions of the inner ear and your cochlea. And, you know, the bone encasing all these structures. It's interesting that the skin and mucous membranes in your outer and middle ear might be more sensitive to light than other skin, but it isn't like this is a tunnel to your brain or whatever.

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