Light Therapy - A Solution For Many Disorders

By Jamie Rona  

Light therapy is a relatively new way to treat many different types of disorders from seasonal depression to jet lag. It is effective, easy to do and has very few, mild side effects. Can light therapy help you?

What is light therapy? This type of therapy mimics natural outdoor light to help restore the body's natural rhythms and help people overcome many different mood disorders. Light therapy uses a special light that emits a light that is brighter than that of a normal household lamp. Most light boxes give off a light that is brighter and more intense than typical outdoor light, so a short session of exposure to the light is usually very effective.

Why is light therapy used? This type of therapy is used to simulate natural, outdoor light. Studies have shown that exposure to natural light helps to maintain our body's natural rhythm. When there is a lack of natural light it can upset the natural rhythm and cause disorders such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Light therapy is also effective in treating conditions such as jet lag, post-partum depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Exposure to these lights can even help people who work rotating shifts maintain a normal sleep cycle.

What are the risks? Light therapy has a few risks, however they are generally mild. Some of the side effects may include: headache, nausea, eyestrain, agitation, fatigue, and irritability. Most side effects will resolve themselves within a few days of beginning light therapy treatment. However if they don't go away on their own, try cutting back on the time that you use the treatment or change the time of day that you use the light.

A word of caution, light therapy may trigger episodes of mania in patients with bipolar disorder. There is also a risk of suicidal thoughts in people who are suffering from severe depression. If you are currently being treated for one of these disorders, please consult your physician before beginning any type of alternative therapy.

Getting the most from your therapy sessions. For best results, you should use your light box at the same time each day. Most health care professionals recommend using the box soon after you wake up each day. Start with a 15 minute session and gradually work up to 30 minutes to two hours. Consistency is important when using a light box. You may be tempted to skip a day, but find ways to make your therapy time productive. Place the box on a table near you and then read a book or watch television.

Light therapy isn't a cure for every mood disorder, but it can help reduce symptoms and give you relief. Spending a little time with a light box each day can help you find joy in the little things again.