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Philips GoLite: Cure for winter blues?

Philips claims its GoLite Blu light-therapy device can help those with mood, sleep, and energy problems. We give it a whirl.

The GoLite Blu sells for $120 at Amazon. Philips

Some call it seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Others just call it the winter blues. But whatever you call it, if you happen to be one of the millions of poor schmucks who live in colder northern states, you may be aware that you're hitting the peak gloomy season, and it's not particularly fun.

One way to combat SAD is simply to get outside and absorb as much sunlight as you can during the daylight hours. However, sometimes it's just flat out too cold outside or that little thing called a job--if you're lucky enough to have one--keeps you in the office cave.

That's where something called light therapy comes in, and several companies sell small light boxes to combat the winter blues. The product I've been testing out in my windowless office in New York is called the GoLite Blu, which is made by Apollo Health but has the Philips brand on it (Philips Respironics bought Apollo in 2007).

The GoLite has been out for a while and uses something called Bluewave technology. Philips describes the glow the GoLite produces as a low-intensity blue light (470nm), but it's actually quite intense at the brightest setting. You're not supposed to look directly at the device, but instead shine it more at the side of your face for about 15-30 minutes a day (you can adjust the timer as well as the intensity of the light).

According to Philips, "using the right wavelength of light, you can trigger your active hormones naturally, boosting your mood and overcoming those down feelings, whatever the season." Philips says that studies have shown that blue light is the way to fight the blues, as receptors in our eyes convert the blue light from the summer sky into "the chemicals our bodies need to be active and energetic." The Mayo Clinic also has good things to say about light therapy.

At 14 ounces, the GoLite is lightweight and has a rechargeable battery in it, so it's designed to be portable (it can be used for jet lag, as well). Unfortunately, it's one of those products that's difficult to review because it works better for some people than others. Personally, I think it's helped me, and I use it as a sort of pick-me-up or low-intensity shot of espresso, especially right before writing a blog post. If nothing else, the blue light jolts you awake for the time it's on.

Anybody else have any experience with the winter blues and light therapy? Curious to hear from folks who've tried to treat SAD with technology--or other techniques.