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 GAITHERSBURG, Md., Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Nine years ago Neal Owens sought professional help for a set of symptoms that affected his family life and career. Each year as winter approached, as the days became shorter and darker, Owens grew depressed. He also craved carbohydrates, gained weight and overslept; his energy level decreased; he became anxious, irritable and withdrawn. After many tests, Owens was diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Over time he responded to something called phototherapy, a non- invasive treatment that replaces winter's reduced sunlight with artificial bright light.
 According to SAD research pioneer Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the pineal gland -- attached to the base of the brain and named for its resemblance to a pine cone -- releases a powerful hormone called melatonin in time with the 24-hour light/dark cycle. Melatonin, which can negatively affect emotions, reaches highest levels in darkness; sunlight suppresses its flow. After 10 years of research at institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, phototherapy is recommended as a treatment for SAD by the American Psychiatric Association's Task Force on Treating Psychiatric Disorders.
 Today, Owens is president of the SunBox Co., which he founded in 1985 to make bright-light treatment available to the 6 percent of the population who suffer from acute SAD, and the 14 percent who experience a milder disorder, or winter doldrums, called sub- syndromal SAD. SunBox light units are designed for therapeutic use by the 35 million people who have seasonal mood shifts. Phototherapy helps about 85 percent of SAD sufferers, yet only a third receive any kind of therapy.
 More About SAD
 SAD affects people of all races, ethnic groups and ages. Women are four times more likely than men to suffer from SAD, and some researchers suspect a genetic link. Up to 25 percent of those who live at the United States' mid-to-northern latitudes experience winter doldrums. Rosenthal, who wrote "Seasons of the Mind" (N.Y., Bantam, 1989; N.Y., Guilford, 1993), designed a questionnaire to help people identify SAD. A health professional must make the SAD diagnosis, but symptoms include having less energy than usual; feeling less creative and productive; feeling sad, down or depressed; feeling less enthusiastic about the future or enjoying life less; needing more sleep than usual; and feeling unable to control appetite or weight.
 How Phototherapy Works
 In phototherapy, people are exposed to intense light under specific conditions. The light therapy system recommended by the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms consists of a set of fluorescent bulbs installed in a box with a plastic diffusing screen. The box is set up on a table or desktop, where patients can sit comfortably during treatment, and read, write, watch television or eat meals.
 Treatment consists of sitting close to the light box, with lights on, head and body oriented toward the light, and eyes open. Light therapy works not on the skin, but through the eyes to stimulate the brain's hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic nervous system: activity and sleep; circulation and breathing; growth and reproduction; heat regulation; and emotional, energy and fluid balance. The Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms recommends ultraviolet light sources not be used in phototherapy. Those concerned about cataracts should avoid UV exposure.
 Treatment sessions last from 15 minutes to three hours, once or twice a day, although new high-intensity light units from the SunBox Co. reduce exposure time to between 15 and 30 minutes. Light levels should match levels outside shortly after sunrise or before sunset. Therapeutic light intensity usually is five times higher (measured by a light meter in lux or foot candles) than that of ordinary lamps and ceiling fixtures at home or at work. Studies show that light treatment may also help ease sleep problems such as getting drowsy early in the day, waking earlier in the morning, sleeping less deeply and being less alert during the day.
 The SunBox Co.
 SunBox products include a 13-pound, briefcase-sized (W23"xH15.5"xD3.25") SunRay I, the most advanced portable unit available. The $399, 10,000-lux light unit is built of durable lightweight aluminum, has a full-spectrum non-UV light source, and comes with a desk stand that travels with the unit. The SunBox Co. is the original light unit manufacturer and distributor, and a full- service distributor and consultant for natural lighting in homes and offices.
 More than 150 clinical research centers worldwide use SunBox units, and demand for light units tripled last year. For more information call 800-LITE YOU (548-3968), or write: SAD Information, P.O. Box 10606, Rockville, Md. 20850.
 -0- 1/15/93
 /NOTE: Photos available on request./
 /CONTACT: Neal Owens of the SunBox Co., 301-869-5980/

CO: SunBox Co. ST: Maryland IN: HEA SU:

IH -- DCFNS2 -- 5175 01/15/93 07:31 EST
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Date:Jan 15, 1993

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