January 30, 2012

 Effective new gadget can brighten up your day OUR grandparents simply called it the winter blues – but nowadays we have a proper medical term for the condition that affects an estimated one in four Irish people.

Only the most severe cases of sea- sonal affective disorder (SAD) are ever clinically diagnosed, but even a mild dose can make the winter months a real struggle to endure.

In fact, SAD sufferers can experience symptoms well into May or early June and may only get respite for two or three months of the year.

Exercise can help but the condition caus- es a lack of motivation, which makes it dif- ficult to get out of bed, never mind jog or walk around the local park in the biting cold and rain.

SAB is often mistakenly thought of as depression, and while that may be one of the symptoms, the condition affects many people to varying degrees.

BOOSt SAD is actually caused byan increase in Melatonin, our natural sleep hormone, and a correspon- ding decrease in Serotonin, the chemical produced by the body to boost energy and improve mood levels.

The end result is lethargy, tired- ness, sometimes insomnia and a desire to eat carbohydrates to replace the lost energy with a sug- ar based substance.

The worst cases of SAD can lead to clinical depres- sion but most people with the condition believe it's just a part of winter that they have to live with.

However, scientists have come up with a revolu- tionary device that can treat the condition, and it's as simple as it is effective. The Valkee brain stimulation headset works by shining a light through special earplugs directly into the brain.

It has a similar effect as natural sunlight, creating the same mood experienced on a warm summer's day. Not that we see too many of them hi Ireland! Experts say the minimum recommended dose of sunlight is 15 minutes a day with 25 per cent of the body exposed. But the sun only shines sporadically in our chilly cli- mate and the cold weather means most of our body is usually covered, meaning it's impossible to get enough sunlight to boost our mood significantly.

SAD has been treated before with light boxes, but their cumbersome size means they aren't practical for many sufferers. The brain stimula- tion headset is about the size of an iPod and can be carried just about anywhere.

It also takes just 12 minutes a day to treat SAD with the Valkee brain stimulation headset compared to the 30-40 minutes with traditional light boxes, and treatment can take place quickly and conveniently at a time that suits, like on the way to work in the car, bus or train for example.

Priced at €199 it's also sig- nificantly cheaper than light boxes that can cost up to €350 and Irish distributers, Valkee Ireland, say their device is effective in 92 per cent of cases.

• The Valkee brain stimulation headset has been clinically tested and is officially cate- gorised as a medical device. It's available in Ireland from Total Laser Health at Spawell Leisure Complex, Templeogue, Dublin 6 (01- 4907366) or order online at www.valkee.iaMOOD-BOOSTING: The Valkee earplugsEASY AND CONVENIENT TOUSE; The new Valkee headset