Does light therapy help against seasonal affective disorder? SAD is a recognized medical condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Although it is often referred to as the Winter Blues, seasonal affective disorder can occur at different times of the year and symptoms of SAD arise whenever the body’s natural circadian rhythms are out of balance for whatever reason.
Because seasonal affective disorder is commonly triggered by a lack of exposure to natural light, one of the first lines of treatment for the disorder is light therapy. Exposure to sunlight is the ideal, but where this is not possible, an artificial light box can help reduce the symptoms of depression associated with seasonal affective disorder.
Does light therapy help against seasonal affective disorder?
Light therapy is primarily used for winter seasonal affective disorder since reduced exposure to daylight during the winter months is thought to be responsible for the symptoms of SAD. For many people, light therapy is enough and within a short time, their symptoms abate and they feel much better. But for others, better results are obtained by combining light therapy with medications such as antidepressants and a course of psychotherapy.
How does light therapy help against seasonal affective disorder?
Exposure to light tends to make us feel better, even when we are not suffering the effects of seasonal affective disorder, so it stands to reason that light therapy can be a valuable treatment for SAD patients. But aside from the obvious feel-good benefits of bright light therapy, exposure to light increases the production of serotonin (too little serotonin is linked to depression) and suppresses the production of melatonin in the brain (melatonin triggers sleep).
Light boxes are designed to mimic the effects of natural daylight, but without most of the harmful UV light that would potentially lead to eye and skin damage (which is why using a light box is not going to give you a nice orange glow!). Different light boxes will emit different amounts of light, but the recommended level of “lumens” is around 10,000 lux of full spectrum white light.
How is a light box used to treat SAD?
Patients are normally advised to sit in front of a light box for between thirty minutes to an hour, usually in the morning. You do not need to sit staring at the bright light continuously—glancing at it from time to time is sufficient.
Where can I get a light box from?
Light boxes are available from lots of places: you should be able to buy one from your local pharmacy or your doctor might be able to give you one on prescription. They are even available over the internet; although it is a good idea to do your research before you buy one as they come in many different sizes and light intensities.
Are light boxes safe to use?
In general light boxes are considered safe to use, even though they are not as yet approved by the FDA, but if in doubt, always check with your doctor before trying a light box to treat the symptoms of SAD.