Bright Light Therapy

seasonal affective disorder

Bright light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a helpful way to treat the winter blues, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as some sleep disorders. SAD is a form of depression, occurring in the fall and winter months, when the amount of daylight and sunshine is reduced.

What is Bright Light Therapy?

During bright light therapy, you expose yourself to a light therapy apparatus that mimics natural outside sunlight. The light is believed to affect your brain chemistry specifically linked to mood.

An ideal way to obtain light therapy is to set a light-emitting device on a desktop or table, where you can sit comfortably for a period of time during your treatment. Depending on the device used, treatment sessions may range from 15 minutes to three hours up to two times a day, reports Columbia University.

Typically, light boxes emit upwards of 10,000 lux of light, which are stronger and brighter than contemporary incandescent lamps. Smaller and more convenient light therapy devices, which use LED technology, are now available.

phototherapy lamp

Uses of Bright Light Therapy

While a primary reason for bright light therapy is to combat seasonal affective disorder, there are other reasons why your physician may advise bright light therapy.  These include:

Sleep disorders. In some cases, exposure to bright light during the day can help improve chronic insomnia or jet lag symptoms. People who work night shifts who may be suffering from shift work sleep disorder may find benefits in using light therapy. People who have circadian rhythm sleep disorder, such as delayed sleep phase disorder, use dawn stimulation light therapy to treat their condition.

Depression. Besides seasonal affective disorders, bright light therapy can be used in treating other types of depression, such as postpartum depression,. In some cases, it may help people reduce their antidepressant medication dosage.

Dementia. Recent research, as reported here by BBC News, has found that light therapy may help slow down dementia.

Skin and hair conditions. Light therapy is also used for skin conditions, like psoriasis, neonatal jaundice, vitiligo, acne and eczema. It can also be used to promote hair growth and accelerate wound healing.

Cognitive performance and mood. A recent study from Finnish University has found that bright light therapy helps to improve mood and cognitive performance in people who do not have depression.

Before beginning any bright light therapy, speak with your doctor. It’s particularly important to speak to an ophthalmologist before using bright light therapy if you have any sort of eye condition. Many varieties of bright light therapy lamps can easily be found online or from your local drug store or medical supply store.

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