Light therapy an option for those with seasonal disorder

By Amy Werdin Advocate Health News

Light therapy should be combined with other strategies when fighting those winter blues. (Photo courtesy of Advocate Health News)

Maybe you’re heard of light therapy as a way to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder a form of depression in which a person has feelings of sadness and a lack of interest during the changing seasons. Light therapy involves short-term exposure to specific wavelengths of light.

Jessica Helon, a nurse practitioner with Advocate Medical Group in Aurora, suggests that light therapy should be combined with other strategies when fighting those winter blues.

“It is common for me to hear patients say they feel less motivated or energetic in the winter,” Helon said. “This year, it is compounded by the restrictions of COVID, and the stress of an atypical holiday season. I believe successful treatment often involves a combination of strategies, such as exercise, psychotherapy and medications, but can also benefit from light therapy.”

You should talk to a medical professional about what might work best for you, but research suggests that light therapy may benefit major depressive disorders and other conditions. It can can ease symptoms, increase your energy levels and improve focus.

Light therapy boxes, also referred to as “bright light therapy boxes” or “phototherapy boxes,” can be purchased online or in many stores, no prescription needed.

There are three elements of light therapy:

  1. Strength: The brightness of a light therapy box is greater than that of household lamps, and mimics natural sun exposure without the possibility of harmful UV rays.
  2. Time: Most studies recommend exposure time of 30-45 minutes.
  3. Timing: Generally, after waking up is the recommended time of day to practice light therapy.

Tips for use of a light therapy box:

  • For best effect, a distance from light to user of 16-24 inches is recommended.
  • The light should be positioned so that it can shine on the face, but not directly in the eyes.
  • Most importantly, light therapy should be used daily to maintain its effectiveness.

As an added benefit to mood, using light therapy after sleep can help regulate your sleep schedule and minimize daytime fatigue.