Light therapy is known to help with seasonal depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
The study led by Ybe Meesters, PhD scholar from the University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, discovered a photoreceptor with high sensitivity to light in the range of 470-490 nm. This has sparked speculation that light may be more effective than traditional treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—however, excessive exposure to blue light can also lead to depressive episodes. This is where our low blue light lamp, Oculamp, with three color settings can help you manage this condition.
For a period of 15 days, 45 patients with SAD participated in a study involving light therapy sessions of 30 minutes each, administered on five consecutive days. Half of the patients received treatment with broad-wavelength, white light without UV, while the other half received narrow-band blue light treatment.
The patients completed weekly mood and energy questionnaires and were evaluated using the Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Seasonal Affective Disorder Version (SIGH-SAD).
The results showed that both groups had significantly lower SIGH-SAD ratings compared to their baseline, with a 67% reduction in the group treated with blue light and a 73.2% reduction in the group treated with white light.
There were no significant differences between the two groups.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is depression that occurs only during certain seasons, usually in winter months. Experts believe that SAD is a result of a combination of factors, including the reduction in natural sunlight during the winter months, changes in the body’s levels of certain hormones, and genetics.
SAD is more common in individuals who live in areas with long, dark winters and is more prevalent in women than in men. It is also more prevalent in people who already have a family history of depression or other mood disorders.
Symptoms of SAD
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Low energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns, such as oversleeping or a desire to eat more carbohydrates
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Loss of interest in activities
- Difficulty functioning in daily life
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Note that these symptoms can vary from individual to individual. If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of SAD, seek help to start treatment.
Treatment of SAD using Light Therapy
Light therapy is a type of treatment that involves exposure to light in order to improve mood and alleviate SAD symptoms. It is most commonly used to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Its effectiveness in treating SAD is due to the presence of photoreceptors found in the retina. These receptors are susceptible to blue light in the range of 470-490 nm and play a role in regulating the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
Studies show that exposure to light increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that works to regulate mood. When used with other treatments for SAD, such as antidepressant medication and talk therapy, light therapy seems to work effectively.
We don’t exactly know how light therapy is effective for depressive disorders like SAD, but experts believe that it impacts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and the production of the hormone melatonin, as well as the levels of serotonin in the brain.
These changes regulate our emotional responses in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and amygdala, the parts of the brain that are impacted by depression.
Here’s how light therapy works
You can manage your seasonal affective disorder. All you need is a SAD lamp. Moreover, a low blue light lamp from a reliable retailer online like MyBlueProtector.com can also help you regulate your sleep-wake cycle, improving sleep and mood.
We have Oculamp, a lamp that’s designed by professional optometrists in the UK to help you relieve eye strain. It features three different color settings and a touch screen, and is portable, allowing you to take it with you to any room. One full charge of the Oculamp provides 20 hours of use.
How to do light therapy at home
To hold a light therapy session at home, you need to sit near the Oculamp, or any other lamp that emits bright, natural light. A standard output should be in the range of 2,500–10,000 lux.
Usually, the treatments start in autumn and continue till early spring. The length of the session varies and usually depends on how you handle the treatment and how powerful the light source is.
Typically, you should start with a 10,000 lux bright light therapy for half an hour every morning but if you’re new to the therapy, begin with shorter treatments.
Follow these steps:
- Set the lamp on a stable surface like a counter or a desk
- Position yourself at a distance from the lamp
- Keep your eyes open, and don’t fall asleep during the session
- Start with 30 minutes of exposure every day
- Fix the sessions early mornings between 6 and 9 am.
The session time and duration are flexible. You can adjust them according to how you feel. You can also do other activities like reading or working to pass the time while sitting in front of the light source.
Side effects of Light Therapy
Though light therapy works effectively, it is not recommended for people with underlying medical conditions that make their eyes extremely sensitive to light and who take medications that increase light sensitivity.
People with the following conditions should always consult a doctor before trying light therapy:
- Eye conditions like cataracts, AMD, or glaucoma
- Sensitive skin
- Skin cancer in the past
If you experience any irritability when using a light-emitting device, discontinue and speak to your doctor about it.
Additionally, people who can opt for light therapy might also notice a few minor side effects that can be overcome by adjusting the intensity, timing, and duration of the therapy session. You may experience the following:
- Sleep issues
- Blurry vision
Benefits of light therapy
Light therapy helps more than just depressive symptoms. Its benefits include:
- Accessibility; this treatment can be done in the comfort of your home. All you need to do is purchase a light box or lamp.
- Low risk; there are a few side effects to be careful about, but light therapy is generally very safe.
- Non-invasive. Moreover, the therapy does not use medication
- Convenient; You can continue or discontinue the therapy whenever you want without risking side effects.
How long does light therapy take to work for depression?
According to a study, you may need just five days of light exposure to see the benefits for mild SAD conditions. Depressive symptoms should improve in about two weeks; if not, you can increase your exposure to light from thirty minutes to an hour every day.
If the therapy works for you, you can try changing the sessions, like reducing the time in front of the light source or trying it at a different time than usual. You can also skip it for a day or two.
We do need more research to determine how effective this therapy is for higher levels of SAD and depression.
Your doctor may increase or decrease your light therapy sessions depending on how you respond to the treatment.
Light therapy can be an effective tool against Seasonal Affective Disorder; however, people with other types of depression can also find it to be beneficial. Research has shown great positive results, but more research is still needed.
Before starting light therapy, do consult with a healthcare professional and discuss your health history with them.
While light therapy is beneficial, blue light from these SAD lamps can lead to insomnia and disrupt circadian rhythm. This is why it’s important to use a low blue light lamp like our Oculamp to limit blue light exposure.
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