Bright Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Depression

Bright Light Therapy involves exposing the to a light source that mimics sunlight. As a result of this, our bodies produce more serotonin and melatonin, such as during the winter and fall season.

According to researchers, using artificial sources to supplement the low exposure to sunlight can enable better mood and sleep.

But did you know? Psychologists believe that light therapy could help treat depression. According to experts, seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression) may have a direct link with reduced sunlight exposure, especially during the winter and fall months.

The idea behind light therapy is to simply compensate for the reduced sunlight. In this treatment, a person sits around a device known as a lightbox.

The lightbox emits strong rays of light with high intensity, like the light that the sun emits but with some variations. Typically, a lightbox could emit between 2500 and 10,000 lux. The ‘lux’ here is a unit that measures the amount of light being emitted.

Typically, light therapy treatment begins around the fall months and continues until spring arrives. And every session would be approximately 10-15 minutes long.

However, the length of the session would vary from person to person. For instance, a person who is not used to light therapy may get receive shorter sessions in the beginning.

At the same time, the length of a session also directly depends on the intensity of the light being emitted from the lightbox. The higher the intensity, the shorter the session could be.

How long does it take for light therapy to work for depression?

The exact duration of light therapy is something that a psychological therapist can determine on a case-to-case basis.

But typically, these treatments can last anywhere from 1 to 4 months involving short but progressive sessions that range from 1 – 10 minutes.

Each session is done around 2-3 times every week.

However, unfortunately, one cannot find a straightforward answer to this question.

This is because the extent and exact time duration would depend on the quality of the light-emitting device, the extent of depression, and a wide range of other factors.

Some people may experience differences in their life after just a few sessions. While others might take 1-2 months before noticing any changes in how they feel.

However, the trick here is to remain fully consistent. This is because the benefits and the effect of this treatment are said to increase exponentially with every session.

What is the best light therapy for depression?

In the market, you can find a wide number of tools and equipment designed for light therapy. After all, science is advancing rapidly, leading to ground-breaking inventions in the field of medicine and mind too.

Light therapy glasses are considered extremely beneficial and helpful, as they remove the need of sitting in front of a light-emitting device. One can simply wear the best light therapy glasses and experience the same benefits that a regular light-emitting device would give.

However, it is suggested that these devices must only be used under the supervision of a psychological therapist. We do not encourage self-diagnosis or to experiment around without the advice of a mental health expert.

An expert will help you accurately control the intensity of light and your time duration of exposure. After all, more is not always good. Abusing a device for long periods of time may result in the worsening of your existing conditions.

Did you know? Light therapy is not only used for the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) but also for a wide range of other purposes such as skin issues and signs of aging?

Though for skin, red light is used. Hence, the devices designed for red light therapy are different from those that are designed for seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression).

In the past, the best red light therapy devices used to be quite expensive. But today, these devices have become much more portable and accessible.

This means that a wide number of housewives and college students can afford red light devices. While many experts have their doubts over it, others believe that red light therapy could have ground-breaking implications.

Do Daylight Bulbs Help with Depression?

You do already know about the use of special light-emitting devices for the treatment of seasonal depression. But you might wonder, how are these devices any different than the regular light bulbs in your house?

After all, the light bulbs are also ‘light-emitting devices’ in technical terms. So, won’t they help you treat depression?

The answer is no, regular light bulbs in your house are not suitable for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is because these bulbs cannot replicate the color of the sunlight due to a difference in the wavelengths.

Rather, you want a device that can produce light that is similar to natural sunlight. Sometimes, daylight bulbs are too bright or too white. Rather, you want the light-emitting device to be right in the sweet spot. And therefore, specialized light therapy devices should only be used.

As far as red-light therapy goes, you will need specialized equipment for that too. However, you must remember the rule, “too much of anything is bad”. Red light therapy can produce several side effects if you overdose on it.

For instance, according to some experts, constant exposure to red light could lead to the burning of the skin. However, this would occur after hours of continuous exposure. For instance, falling asleep under a red light.

So yes, overdoing it is a thing, and it should be avoided at all costs. But other than that, red light therapy is not harmful in the sense that it will not cause cancer or other skin diseases.

Furthermore, red light is also considered as much safer for the eyes in comparison with blue light. Still, experts suggest you wear eye protection when you are near a red-light therapy device.

This will reduce any risks of damage to the eyes. The use of eye-protective gear is recommended in all sorts of light therapies.

What type of light bulbs helps with depression?

As mentioned earlier, you need specialized devices for light therapy. For instance, you can also find seasonal affective disorder (SAD) bulbs in the market that are designed for this very purpose.

For instance, the Alzo 27W Full Spectrum CFL light bulb is among the best SAD light bulbs that are suitable for light therapy.

Since this is a full-spectrum bulb, it covers the entire wavelength range present in the visible light portion of the sun’s electromagnetic rays. This way, it mimics the real sunlight in the daytime, hence helping people with seasonal depression improve their mood.

Similarly, the Square Perfect 3077 S full spectrum photo bulb is another notable choice of buyers. Featuring a spiral design, this is a 5500k bulb that again, mimics the real sunlight in the room.

This bulb is designed to fit all standard sockets, which means that it is quite easy to install. Overall, it is a cost-effective solution that can help you overcome the effects of seasonal depression.

However, SAD bulbs should only be considered as a supplement on top of regular treatment for seasonal affective disorder. They are not a substitute for your regular psychological therapy or light treatment under specialized equipment.

Similarly, you could also consider buying a special lamp that is designed for light therapy. These are the regular photo-emitting devices that psychological therapists also use.

For instance, consider the Northern Light Technology Boxelite lamp that can deliver up to 10k LUX. This is a powerful lamp that is used by psychological therapists and doctors throughout the world. Just make sure that you are not overusing it if you do happen to get one.

The Carex Health Brands Day-Light Classic Plus also falls under the top 10 best light therapy lamp reviews due to its high power and exceptional build quality.

This SAD lamp can deliver 100,000 LUX in total which is, of course, customizable. Along with that, it offers glare-free full-spectrum light that enhances vision during activities such as reading, breakfast, and work.

We do not recommend staring at it directly for prolonged periods of time, especially if you are not under the supervision of a therapist.

Conclusion

Light therapy could surprisingly help with seasonal affective disorder. However, since this therapy involves exposure to bright light, it should never be overdone.

Even a therapist will break the treatment down into multiple sessions of 1 to 10 minutes just 2-3 times in a week, for up to 4 months.

This is because prolonged and continuous exposure can do more harm than good, by damaging your eyes.

So, follow the advice of your doctor who will determine your number of sessions and the duration of each session based on your specific case.

Furthermore, you must always get specialized equipment for light therapy. Regular bulbs are not recommended since they do not produce full-spectrum visible light as sun rays do.

At the same time, the flickering in regular light sources can trigger headaches and result in stress on the eyes.

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