Light Therapy: A Solution for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Truvva - Sleep Better - Light Therapy

An example of a depression that only manifests itself in certain seasons is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It usually strikes in the fall and winter. SAD is thought to afflict 5% of people, with women being more likely to be affected than men. It is essential to comprehend SAD and the available treatments for it in order to help those who experience it and enhance their quality of life. A recurrent depressive episode that happens during a specific season—usually fall or winter—is the hallmark of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also referred to as winter depression. Though the precise cause of SAD is still unknown, it is thought to be connected to variations in daylight and the body’s reaction to these variations.

Higher latitudes are more likely to experience SAD because of the year-round, notable variations in daylight hours. It is believed that a mix of environmental & biological factors are the causes of SAD. According to one theory, the body’s internal clock is thrown off during the winter months when there is less exposure to sunlight, which lowers serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that influences mood. According to a different theory, variations in daylight might have an impact on the body’s melatonin levels, which control sleep cycles. Aside from changes in appetite and sleep patterns, common symptoms of SAD include feelings of melancholy, hopelessness, and irritability.

Along with these symptoms, people with SAD may also feel lethargic, have trouble focusing, and lose interest in past interests. Summer and springtime may see a decrease in these symptoms, which normally start in the fall & last through the winter. A treatment option for SAD called light therapy, or phototherapy, entails exposing patients to artificial light that simulates sunshine.

Delivering the light that the body requires to control mood and sleep cycles is the aim of light therapy. In order to lessen the symptoms of SAD, light therapy works by increasing the production of serotonin and decreasing the production of melatonin. For light therapy, 10,000 lux is usually the recommended light intensity, which is much brighter than normal indoor lighting. Although the length of light therapy sessions varies, it is generally advised to begin with 30 to 1 hour of exposure each day & progressively extend it if needed.

Study Participants Treatment Results
Golden et al. (2005) 98 Light therapy vs. placebo Significant improvement in depression scores for light therapy group
Terman et al. (2006) 68 Light therapy vs. fluoxetine vs. combination All groups showed significant improvement, but combination group had fastest response
Lam et al. (2016) 122 Light therapy vs. cognitive-behavioral therapy vs. combination All groups showed significant improvement, but combination group had highest remission rate

It has been discovered that light therapy is a successful SAD treatment. Light therapy has been demonstrated in numerous studies to considerably lessen symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) & enhance general mood & wellbeing. One of the key benefits of light therapy is that it is a safe and convenient treatment option for many people because it is non-invasive and drug-free.

The side effects of light therapy are lower than those of other SAD treatment methods like medication or psychotherapy. While mild side effects like headaches or eye strain are possible for some people, they are usually transient & go away with continued use. The ease with which light therapy can be integrated into daily life also enables people to continue with their regular activities & routines. Suicidal ideation can be treated with various forms of light therapy. Bright light therapy is the most popular kind, which entails sitting in front of a bright light-emitting light box.

Another kind is dawn simulation therapy, which uses an apparatus to replicate a real sunrise by progressively increasing the morning light’s intensity. Another option is blue light therapy, which exposes patients to blue light, which is thought to have a stronger impact on mood regulation. There are various things to think about when selecting a light therapy equipment. First, for best effects, the light intensity should be approximately 10,000 lux.

Another crucial factor is the light box’s size, which needs to be sufficiently large to expose the entire face & eyes. The gadget should also include a UV filter to shield the skin and eyes from damaging UV radiation. The market is filled with a wide variety of light therapy devices, from compact portable units to larger light boxes.

Several well-liked choices are the Northern Light Technologies Boxelite, the Philips Wake-Up Light, and the Verilux HappyLight. Selecting a gadget that suits your unique requirements and tastes is crucial. Despite being generally well-tolerated and safe, using light therapy carries some risks. Eye strain, headaches, and other discomforts can result from prolonged exposure to bright light. To reduce the chance of negative effects, it’s critical to abide by safety instructions and use the device as prescribed.

When using light therapy, some safety precautions to take are keeping a safe distance from the light source, avoiding direct light exposure to the eyes, and taking breaks if you feel uncomfortable. A healthcare provider should be consulted before beginning light therapy, particularly if you are taking any medications that may interact with light therapy or have any pre-existing eye conditions. Light therapy can be used to treat SAD as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with other therapies for better outcomes. To help control serotonin levels and lessen depressive symptoms, doctors may prescribe drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is helpful in addressing negative thought patterns & helping people develop coping mechanisms. Also, modifying one’s lifestyle to include regular exercise, a sleep schedule, and the use of stress-reduction strategies can all improve general wellbeing. Light therapy is a successful treatment option for SAD, according to numerous research studies. According to a meta-analysis of 20 randomized controlled trials, light therapy significantly reduced depressive symptoms in people with SAD when compared to placebo. According to a different study, light therapy and medication were equally successful in treating social anxiety disorder (SAD), with comparable gains in mood and general wellbeing. Light therapy for SAD has varying success rates based on the patient and the intensity of their symptoms.

Overall, though, it has been discovered that light therapy works well for most users in terms of symptom reduction and quality of life enhancement. It’s important to follow a few recommended practices when using light therapy at home. First and foremost, it’s critical to create a daily schedule and use the device at the same time every day. This enhances the effects of light therapy and helps to balance the body’s internal clock.

For best exposure, it’s also advised to place the device at eye level and to sit comfortably 16 to 24 inches away from the light source. It’s easy to incorporate light therapy into your daily routine by using the device while working, reading, or performing other tasks. The bright light on the device can disrupt sleep patterns, so it’s crucial to avoid using it too close to bedtime. Using a light therapy device with inadequate light intensity, leaving it on for too long, or using it inconsistently are common mistakes to avoid.

If you have any questions or concerns, it’s crucial to adhere to the suggested guidelines and speak with a healthcare provider. Many people experience seasonal affective disorder, which is a common condition that primarily affects people in the fall & winter. In addition to relieving depression symptoms & enhancing general wellbeing, light therapy is a secure and efficient treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People are better equipped to choose their course of treatment if they are aware of the signs & symptoms of SAD, as well as the advantages and varieties of light therapy. If you think you might be suffering from SAD, it’s crucial to get professional assistance because they can accurately diagnose the condition and suggest the best course of action for treatment.

In conjunction with other therapies and lifestyle modifications, light therapy can assist people in controlling their symptoms and improving their quality of life.

If you’re interested in learning more about light therapy and its benefits beyond Seasonal Affective Disorder, check out this informative article on how to beat jet lag using light therapy. Jet lag can disrupt our sleep patterns and leave us feeling exhausted, but with the help of light therapy, we can adjust our internal clocks and minimize the effects of jet lag. Discover the science behind this innovative approach by clicking here.



What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. It is also known as winter depression or winter blues.

What is light therapy?

Light therapy is a treatment that involves exposure to bright light to help regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and improve mood. It is often used to treat SAD.

How does light therapy work?

Light therapy works by exposing the eyes to bright light, which helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythms and increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood.

What are the benefits of light therapy for SAD?

Light therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for SAD, with many people experiencing significant improvement in their mood and energy levels. It is also a safe and non-invasive treatment option.

What are the side effects of light therapy?

The most common side effects of light therapy are mild and include headache, eye strain, and nausea. These side effects usually go away after a few days of treatment.

How long does light therapy take to work?

Most people start to see improvement in their mood and energy levels within a few days to a few weeks of starting light therapy.

How long should I use light therapy?

The length of time you should use light therapy depends on your individual needs and the severity of your SAD symptoms. Most people use light therapy for 30 minutes to 2 hours per day, depending on the intensity of the light.

Can I use light therapy at home?

Yes, light therapy devices are available for home use. However, it is important to choose a device that is specifically designed for SAD and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Is light therapy covered by insurance?

Some insurance plans may cover the cost of light therapy for SAD, but it is important to check with your insurance provider to see if it is covered.

Avatar photo
We are inspired by finding solutions to Sleep related issues. It is our goal to provide practical and useful information to help everyone get a better sleep. We provide tips, techniques and product suggestions that we hope will provide everyone with a refreshing and fulfilling rest, and get a better sleep every day... Truvva - Sleep Better!