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Does Light Therapy Work?

Monday, 4 December 2017

Does light therapy work? In short, yes. Its efficiency was established in the first controlled light therapy study way back in 1984, and there have been over 60 controlled studies published since, all proving the same thing.

The experts now are more than confident that bright light therapy is successful for treating the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as subsyndromal SAD (Winter Blues). Read on to learn what light therapy is, how it can be used to help with SAD and where to find the right SAD lamp for you.

What Is Light Therapy?

Now that we've established light therapy really can help you with your seasonal disorder or winter blues, it's time to say a few words about what light therapy includes and how to do it correctly. One of the major benefits of choosing this treatment over medication is that it is perfectly natural, has no known side-effects and can safely be used by virtually anyone.

Light Therapy for SAD

Light therapy involves using a special lamp that produces a very bright light, usually around 10 000 lux, that perfectly imitates natural sunlight. All that is required of you is to sit by this lamp for approximately 30 minutes to one hour each morning. The light produced by the SAD lamp is thought to work by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone) and increase the production of serotonin (a mood-affecting hormone), making your body believe it's summer once again.

Light Therapy for SAD

You can benefit greatly from using a SAD lamp if you find yourself to be experiencing any of the following symptoms between September and April:

  • Sleep problems, usually oversleeping and difficulty staying awake, or early morning waking
  • Lacking in energy and being unable to carry out your normal routine
  • Overeating, craving for carbohydrates, leading to weight gain
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feeling tense and unable to cope with stress
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Loss of libido

Using light therapy for SAD is a very straightforward task, but certain guidelines are worth following to maximise the effectiveness of the treatment. If possible, use the lamp within the first hour of waking up in the morning for at least 20 to 30 minutes, and use it at a distance of about 41cm to 61cm from the face, with your eyes open but not looking directly at the light.

SAD Lamp in Use

How to Pick the Right SAD Lamp

While using a SAD light is as easy as it could be, finding one that suits all your needs might be a bit more tricky. First of all, you absolutely need to make sure the lamp was made specifically to treat SAD. Some therapy lights are, for example, designed for skin disorders, not SAD, and these emit primarily UV light, which could damage your eyes if used for SAD.

Different light therapy lamps also produce different intensities of light. For a lamp to be effective for treating SAD, the intensity of lamp should be approximately 10 000 lux.

Last but not least, think about how and where you intend to use the light. There are many different styles of SAD lamps out there, from small and portable, to larger and freestanding, so make sure you know how you will be using it.

Beurer TL30 Ultra Portable Daylight Lamp

Some Suggestions

When choosing a SAD lamp from Health and Care, you can rest assured the light is always strong, UV-free and flicker-free for a safe, enjoyable and effective treatment. Finding the right shape and size is up to you, but some of our suggestions include this Ultra Portable Daylight Lamp, the slightly more advanced Daylight SAD Lamp, or the Floorstanding Daylight Lamp.

Have you tried light therapy before? Share your thoughts below or find us on Facebook and Twitter.