As the nights draw in, we look at the rise in SAD treatments that recreate natural sunlight in order to stimulate your senses.
What London lacks in sunshine, it makes up for with its culture. Now, thanks to sun rooms that provide treatment for SAD sufferers by mimicking the sun’s rays, you can top up your vitamin D, says Kohinoor Sahota
Let’s be honest, London is not the
sunniest place in the world. And with one in three people suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which is also known as ‘winter depression’, the last thing you want is for your trip to be a gloomy experience.
SAD symptoms start in the autumn and get more severe during December, January and February. The lack of sunlight stops a part of the brain (hypothalamus) from working properly, affecting the production of melatonin and serotonin. This affects the body’s internal clock, so if you are suffering from jetlag, the problem becomes more acute.
Due to the shorter days, you can become increasingly lethargic and find it harder to get up in the morning. One of the best treatments is light therapy, where a light box is used to simulate exposure to sunlight. In Scandinavia there are light cafés, and now light rooms are opening in London too. Research has shown that light therapy is more effective when the treatment takes place in the morning.
K West Spa, near Shepherd’s Bush, has created a Sun Meadow Treatment Room, which mimics natural daylight. De-stressing beams of light are dispensed from the ceiling. The low-intensity ultraviolet light safely stimulates the skin’s melanin levels, encouraging the production of vitamin D and releasing serotonin. The lights help those suffering from eczema, psoriasis and arthritis. Plus, the sunken bed makes this a sleep-inducing space.
While you are at the spa, you can also make use of its other facilities: Jacuzzi, steam rooms and, most impressively, the Snow Paradise room where the temperature is -15 degrees Celsius. Alternate between the steam and ice to help stimulate circulation.
Ajala Spa, which specialises in Oriental and Hawaiian techniques, has branches across the City. The branch near St Paul’s Cathedral stands out, however, as it has a Zen Sun Therapy Lounge. The lounge safely replicates natural sunlight using infra-red heat, so there is no risk of skin damage from UV rays. There are different settings in the spa for the sun room, mimicking different places around the world – Miami at midday or Bali at sunset?
The room can be booked for half an hour or one hour, and has proved popular with nearby City workers. Look out for offers that combine use of the room with a massage. Here definitely comes the sun... K West Spa, Richmond Way, W14 0AX. T: 020-8008 6600. www.k-west.co.uk. Ajala Spa St Paul’s, 10 Godliman St, EC4V 5AJ. T: 020-7074 1030. www.ajalaspa.com
Clockwise from top left: K West Spa treatment room; K West Spa Sun Meadow room; relax in one of the spa’s cabins Inset: K West Wet Spa