SunSprite: Shedding Light on Seasonal Depression

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SunSprite is a wearable sunlight tracker. Photo provided.

New Englanders are a hearty bunch, but that doesn’t mean some of us aren’t susceptible to seasonal depression. Also called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this type of depression is related to the changing of the seasons. And according to the Mayo Clinic, SAD can start at the beginning of the fall and last until the snow has long since left our driveways.

A few years ago, Richard Schwartz, MD, and Jacqueline Olds, MD, both associate clinical professors of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and practicing psychiatrists, discovered that three in four of their patients were coming in with SAD – and they were looking for treatment that didn’t require medication.

Then Schwartz and Olds came across “bright light therapy,” which involves being in front of a bright light or in the sunshine for a certain amount of time each day. This can be a viable option for patients who are hesitant to take anti-depressants to treat their SAD. Schwartz and Olds also learned pretty quickly that while bright light therapy for SAD has been researched since the 1980s, measuring the correct exposure to light can be a real challenge for patients.

What’s important is that the light comes through your eyes and then travels through special receptor cells on your retina, and then on to your brain, which controls your hormonal cycles, says Ed Likovich, CEO of GoodLux.

GoodLux was founded by Schwartz and Olds in 2012 to develop a wearable solution called SunSprite. The product accurately measures the amount of sunlight patients receive every day. GoodLux has sold more than 1,000 SunSprites since the product’s launch in September, says Likovich.

According to the company, SunSprite features dual sensors that measure visible and UV light. It lets users know when they’ve absorbed the right amount of bright light to achieve their personal goals. With its 10 LED lights – each of which represents 10% of an individual’s daily goal – SunSprite allows users to track their daily progress, get scientific coaching, view historical data and earn badges. Users can also synch data from SunSprite, which has no cords or cables, with an app on their mobile phones.

SunSprite can be purchased at SunSprite.com and costs $99. Many users wear SunSprite on their shirt collars via its flexible magnetic clasp – often, women will wear it on their purse strap, says Likovich. Users wear the product throughout the day, whether they’re working at the office or outside on a walk or a run. SunSprite features Bluetooth Smart sync capability and is solar-powered using custom high-efficiency cell modules.

Eighty-two percent of users report a change in their behavior, according to the GoodLux founders. What that means, says Likovich, is that users are “tweaking their daily behavior” in ways that help them get the light they need. Rather than huddling in a dark living room to check their e-mails, they’re trying to sit near a window where they can access natural sunlight, or they’re having their morning coffee outside in the sunshine.

 

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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