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Sad Treatment: Is Light Therapy Effective?

Winter blues is a real deal. It’s not some soggy mood swing that you can brush off casually. In fact, severe cases of winter blues could lead to serious blow to mental health if not treated on time. The medical name for winter blues is “SAD” or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be described as a form of depression which is related to season changes. It generally starts from the beginning of fall and extends to colder months. According to doctors, SAD is a result of body’s less exposure to sunlight. However, some people even experience SAD in spring or summer.

Some typical symptoms of SAD:

  • A feeling of being depressed almost every day
  • Low energy
  • Loss of interest in several activities, including those that you have already enjoyed
  • Sleeping issues
  • Agitation or sluggishness for almost no reason
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Difficulty in concentration or focus
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Light therapy for SAD

There are anti-depressant medications for those who suffer from SAD. But, according to modern doctors, light therapy would be more effective.

What is light therapy?

As the name says, the therapy literally uses “light” to treat a patient suffering SAD. In this case, the patient is required to sit before a light therapy box. The light box emits light that should enter the patient’s eyes indirectly. You have to keep eyes open but you must not look straight at light box, lest you may end up severe damage in your eyes. If you check red light therapy device reviews, you will see the best ones come with a covered eye-piece that protects your eyes from direct light.

Now, light therapy won’t offer overnight results. You have to be consistent with the treatment and maintain patience to notice visible results over a course of time.

How does light therapy work for SAD conditions?

One of the main reasons behind SAD is lack of exposure to sunlight. This is major factor behind occurrence of SAD cases especially in the winter months. Light therapy takes into account this very fact and tries to compensate absence of sunlight with exposure to artificial light.

Bright light stimulate retina cells which are connected to hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for controlling circadian rhythms. Light therapy activates the hypothalamus at one particular time each day over the course of your treatment. It restores the regular circadian rhythm which eventually works to banish the unwanted seasonal depressive symptoms.

As part of light therapy, the patient has to sit before the light box, say for half an hour every day. According to doctors, you must start the session immediately after you wake up. The light boxes used in therapies emit light in 10,000 lux intensity. In other words, these therapy boxes emit light that’s 100x brighter compared to normal indoor lighting. As mentioned previously, one must sit near the box but mustn’t look directly into it. Try to find a position where you can get the light without harming your eyes. In the meantime, you can check the newspaper or magazine and so on.

Is light therapy effective?

You must be wondering whether light therapy would be effective for you at all. Well, light therapy has proved to be effective in various where patients were suffering from SAD. But then, the efficacy of the treatment is also dependent on 3 factors- intensity, timing and duration. Here is a brief on three of them.


The intensity of light emission by your therapy box plays a major role in determining the success rate of the therapy. The intensity is gauged in terms of “lux”. It’s the metric of the volume of light one receives. For SAD treatments, it is advised to use a light box that can emit light in minimum 10,000 lux. Anything less than 10,000 lux will only end with futile results. The distance between the box and the patient’s face should be around 16-24”.


Your doctor will advise you on the best timing for light therapy for your case. You have to maintain the same timing every day, over the course of your treatment. As mentioned previously, light therapy should be ideally taken early morning, just after one wakes up.


If you are using a 10,000-lux box, the therapy session would be 20-30 minutes every day. But, if you are using a box with lesser lux, say 2,500 lux, the daily treatment sessions will be for longer periods. Every light therapy box carries instructions from manufacturer regarding the usage of the box. Follow those guidelines diligently to determine the actual duration of your treatment. You should consult your doctor here. Most importantly, do not ever, skip your sessions as it might hamper the treatment big time.

David Scott is the head writer at TRI PR. He better part of his college life as a journalist for the college magazine. He still writes and he loves it.