3 Uses Of Light Therapy For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder has the most fitting acronym: SAD. It’s also called the winter blues, as it usually crops up in the cooler months. You can blame the shorter days and longer nights. But with light therapy, you can brighten up your days. SAD is surprisingly common. It affects about 5 percent of the country’s population and can last up to 40 percent of the year.

Your treatment options range far and wide. Supplements can boost your intake of vitamin D, a nutrient that your skin makes from sun exposure. It’s thought to affect serotonin, a brain chemical that controls mood. You can also take antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or use behavioral therapy, aromatherapy, and herbs. Light therapy is another alternative. It’s designed to replace the lack of natural sunlight, a major factor of SAD. But is it right for you? Here’s what you need to know about light therapy.1 Symptoms may include low energy levels, drowsiness, sadness, overeating, weight

gain, and social withdrawal.2

What Is Light Therapy?

All you need to know about light therapy

Light therapy is based on the way light affects your body. It can control your circadian rhythm, or body clock. Exposure to light also has antidepressant effects, explaining why shorter days make us feel down.3 Light can even influence neurotransmitters like serotonin. This treatment uses a light box with white, fluorescent light at 10,000 lux. Each morning, you need to sit 12 to 18 inches from the box for 30 minutes. Most people feel better within one or two weeks.

How To Use Light Therapy

How to perform the light therapy

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Light therapy is safe and tolerated by most people. Yet, like all remedies, the benefits depend on proper use.

1. Keep Your Distance

Light boxes may cause headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision. So don’t sit too close! Follow the rule and sit 12 to 18 inches away, unless your doctor says otherwise.

2. Limit Eye Contact

You don’t need to look directly into the light. But if you’re prone to headaches and eye strain, it might be a good idea. Just make sure your eyes are open during treatment. Luckily, light therapy isn’t linked to eye damage. However, if you have a pre-existing eye disease, you might need regular check-ups. The same goes for diabetes, which can lead to eye problems. If necessary, your doctor will provide special instructions.

3. Check The Wavelengths

Not all light is equal. Before buying a light box, make sure the light is fluorescent. Ultraviolet wavelengths can be harmful and will not treat depression.4

Safety Notes

Do you have bipolar disorder? Light therapy might not be the

best choice. According to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, it may spark hypomanic or manic episodes.5 Most light boxes run for less than 250 dollars, but they can range from 180 to 500 dollars. Your health insurance might cover the cost if you have a prescription – but there’s no guarantee. Take your time shopping around, ask for recommendations, and read reviews.

Don’t stop at light therapy. Focus on stress management, exercise, and eating well. Adopt a new hobby and spend time with people you love. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can beat the winter blues.