What is Light Therapy?
Light Therapy is a treatment, also known as Phototherapy or Bright Light Therapy, that involves sitting in front of a special light box that emits light very similar to natural sunlight. Light Therapy is a way to treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is a type of depression that occurs typically in fall or winter. It’s also sometimes used to treat conditions such as sleep disorders and other types of depression.
Light Therapy Boxes used to treat SAD, and other disorders, should provide 10,000 Lux. (Lux is the measurement of the intensity of the light.) Typically, healthcare practitioners recommend that patients sit in front of a 10,000 Lux light source for 15-30 minutes each morning, every day beginning when the seasons start to change (in September in the northeast.) Although you can begin the treatment at any time. This treatment does require consistency. Usually, the patient is asked to glance at the light every 30 seconds to a minute or so, but not to look directly at the light for the entire 15-30 minutes. Looking directly at the light for more than a glance can cause eye damage.
Where to Find a Light Therapy Box?
You can find Light Therapy Boxes (and also some visors/baseball style hats with lights on the brim that allow you to move around during the treatment time) through many online suppliers. You should choose a Light Therapy Box that provides 10,000 Lux and is FDA approved. Avoid light boxes that emit only blue light because blue light might damage your eyes.. Many reputable Light Therapy Box manufacturers offer a 30-day money back guarantee.
When to Use Light Therapy?
Ideally one should start Light Therapy as soon as the seasons begin to change (usually in September in the northeast), but it can be started at anytime and will likely still be very beneficial. The treatment should be continued into the spring season when natural sunlight alone is enough to boost mood and energy levels. If the patient has been diagnosed with SAD, they may find they experience symptoms at other times of the year during prolonged cloudy and rainy periods. Light Therapy can be beneficial during those periods as well.
Who Can Benefit from Light Therapy?
Patients who have been diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), insomnia, and other types of depression, have been found to benefit from Light Therapy.
Light Therapy boxes with 10,000 Lux emit high intensity light and patients should not look directly at the light for more than a glance. Also, Light Therapy has been reported to lead to mania in some patients with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Light therapy is generally not recommended for patients with eye disorders such as glaucoma or cataracts . Patients should consult with their healthcare provider before beginning Light Therapy to discuss all conditions, medications, and supplements for possible interactions. Please note that tanning beds are not an alternative to Light Therapy. Tanning beds emit ultraviolet light that can damage skin and also greatly increases the risk of skin cancer.