On Dragons’ Den – Toronto entrepreneur introduces a safe and effective light therapy device for millions who suffer from Winter Blues
TORONTO, ONTARIO—Mr. Sean Miller, 44, a Toronto-based entrepreneur with an interest in mental health advocacy, appears on the Dragons’ Den, December 14, 2011 at 8:00 PM (8:30 PM in NFLD) on CBC Television to pitch YumaLite™, his new light therapy visor.
Appearing on Dragons’ Den is a dream for Miller and provides him an opportunity to combine his passion for entrepreneurial endeavors and his interest in mental health advocacy. In the past, Miller has experienced low mood. As he researched different solutions for himself, he became increasingly aware of people who suffered from low mood and other symptoms, which were frequently described as Winter Blues.
What Are “Winter Blues”? Research has shown that as winter approaches every year, and the days get shorter and darker, many people throughout Canada and the United States slow down and find it difficult to wake up in the morning. They tend to eat more carbohydrates and put on weight. Their energy, enthusiasm and productivity may drop off as well. These symptoms frequently last four or five months until the longer, brighter days of spring arrive.
Who Suffers From Winter Blues? As many as 90% of people in the US and Canada experience some of the symptoms of Winter Blues. Of that group of more than 300 million people in the United States and Canada, 5% suffer from a more severe form of Winter Blues known as winter depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). They may feel constantly down, extremely fatigued, and experience a decrease in their libido. They may find it harder to concentrate and withdraw from friends and family, causing problems at work or at home. Ten to 20% suffer from sub-Syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (S-SAD), a milder form of SAD. Women are generally twice as likely to be affected by SAD and S-SAD, and the average age of onset is 23. Those who suffer from Winter Blues, SAD and S-SAD may experience any of the following symptoms to varying degrees: low energy, sadness, over-sleeping, over-eating, weight gain, difficulty concentrating and diminished libido.
Miller found that while many who suffered through the winter suspected that a lack of light was at the root of their symptoms most weren’t sure what they could do about it, short of moving to sunny Florida for the winter. Miller himself knew of a little known option: light therapy, which involves daily exposure to a specifically designed source of artificial light, such as a light box—a floor- or desk-mounted lamp with a large array of bright lights. Light boxes have been around for over three decades and have been clinically proven to be safe and effective. Since they first came out, medical practitioners have been recommending them to address the symptoms of Winter Blues, SAD and S-SAD. Light therapy can also help alleviate symptoms of jet lag and shift work. Preliminary evidence shows it can even help non-seasonal depression.
The unpopularity of light boxes struck Miller as deeply unfortunate. Here was a safe and effective therapy that most sufferers of Winter Blues, SAD and S-SAD weren’t taking advantage of. Miller believed there were two essential reasons for this—light boxes were expensive and inconvenient. Many cost hundreds of dollars and because they worked best with exposure for up to 90 minutes in the morning and weren’t portable users found it hard to fit light therapy into their morning routines. Miller imagined a solution: a portable light source people could wear on their heads. Instead of having to spend valuable time in front of a large, immobile light box, if people had a portable device, they could wear it around the house as they did any number of things—from having breakfast and reading the paper to doing housework or exercising.
Miller’s exposure to large numbers of people suffering Winter Blues, hearing about their frustration with existing treatments, inspired him to build a better mousetrap. In 2008, he and a partner assembled a team that included award winning design firm figforty, and raised funds necessary to create a safe and effective light therapy device that was also convenient and affordable, which millions of people could benefit from.
The result is YumaLite™, a lightweight and ergonomically designed visor that rests comfortably on the head and uses clinically proven light therapy technology to effectively alleviate symptoms of Winter Blues, SAD and S-SAD. YumaLite™ is Health Canada compliant, patent pending and offers the user a choice of either red or white light, a technological improvement on other light therapy devices that offer just one light color. Furthermore, Miller and his team were able to achieve their goal of making the device affordable with a retail price of $99.99. After seven days of wearing YumaLite™ for 30 minutes in the morning, users generally report a noticeable improvement in their mood.
The next challenge Miller faces is bringing YumaLite™ to the world. His appearance on Dragons’ Den is a first major step toward that goal. “The airing of the show is essentially the launch of our product,” said Miller. The visor is currently available online through yumalite.com and Miller hopes that the Dragons’ Den exposure will help create the buzz needed to get the word out there. “I know how awful life is when your mood is low and you don’t have your normal zest for life,” added Miller. “My goal is that through YumaLite™ we are able to help as many people as possible feel better.”