Does Light Therapy Work For Seasonal Depression?

You may have heard people talk about using light therapy for seasonal depression, which means you are wondering: what is it and does it work?


What is light therapy?

Light therapy is used as part of treatment for depression that is becoming more common. It is used for seasonal affective disorder, which is a condition that leaves people feeling depressed during the winter months. Light therapy is supposed to work when you sit near a device that gives off light, which mimics daylight. This is supposed to ease symptoms of depression by impacting brain chemicals, generally linked to mood and sleep.

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Does it work?

There are more studies being done to understand how effective light therapy is, but the clinical trials already completed are promising. Here are results from two different studies.

  • When researchers (study) combined antidepressants with light therapy, all 50 inpatient recipients indicated lower severity of depression.

  • Another 8 week trial (study) with 122 participants found that light therapy was effective and well tolerated.

Although the studies showed positive effects, they do not know which duration of light therapy is best.


Choosing a light box

There is no prescription needed for a light therapy box, but you should always check with your doctor or mental health provider. Explain your symptoms and ask them if this would be beneficial for you.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your light box should: provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UC light as possible. If you don’t know where to start, amazon.com has some to choose from!


General recommendations for use

It is recommended to use the light box within the first hour of waking up in the morning for about 30 minutes. Make sure to keep the light box at a distance of about 16-24 inches from your face and don’t look directly at the light.


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Light therapy works best with talk therapy. To work with a talk therapist who specializes in seasonal depression, click here.