Who Can Benefit from Bright Light Therapy?
Bright light therapy has been shown to help with a number of other disorders and diseases, including:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Sometimes known as winter blues, the symptoms of SAD include low energy, depression, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, weight gain, difficulty with concentrating and feelings of hopelessness. SAD symptoms typically start in the fall and wane in the spring when people get out more.
- Symptoms of depression include loss of interest in activities you enjoyed once, feelings of sadness or hopelessness (the blues), trouble sleeping or oversleeping, trouble concentrating, low energy, difficulty thinking or remembering things and weight gain or weight loss. Depression symptoms persist year-round.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). With DSPS, your normal sleep patterns shift outside a schedule that isn’t considered a social norm. If you have this condition, symptoms include not falling asleep until several hours after midnight and having trouble waking up in the morning.
- Jet lag. Also known as jet lag disorder, jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you’ve taken a trip across multiple time zones (e.g. plane trip from NYC, USA to Paris, France). Symptoms of it include a disturbed sleep cycle, grogginess during the day, trouble concentrating, GI problems and mood changes.
- Shift Work Adjustments. Alternatives to banker’s hours tend to wreak havoc on the body’s internal clock. Phototherapy can help by syncing your internal clock with alternative work shift schedules and enhancing night-shift performance.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD). Roughly 5 million patients were afflicted with ADRD in 2010. And when they get it, their “circadian pacemaker” breaks down. Studies have shown that bright light therapy improves sleep efficiency and rest/activity rhythms in persons with ADRD, presumably through the syncing of their circadian rhythms.
Who Should Avoid Bright Light Therapy?
Bright light therapy is best avoided if you suffer from any of the following:
- Migraines: Although the reason behind migraines isn’t fully understood, people who experience them are extremely sensitive to light. Concussions, although temporary, have similar effects. Until the brain heals from a concussion, avoid bright light therapy.
- Photophobia: This medical condition causes people to experience pain or discomfort when their eyes are exposed to light. The light from phototherapy can also damage the eyes of people with photophobia. People with dry eye condition and thyroid eye disease should also avoid phototherapy.
- Conjunctivitis: Also known as pink eye, this condition can cause sensitivity to light. If you have a flare-up, it’s best to avoid bright light therapy until your eye is completely healed are better. This is a good rule of thumb for all eye infections and chronic conditions of the eye, so talk to your doctor about it.
Use caution and ask your doctor first before using phototherapy if you have any of these conditions listed below. Also, if you have any concerns about how phototherapy is affecting your moods or thoughts, seek medical help right away.
- Bipolar disorder. Bright light therapy may trigger manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus. This and other medical conditions that cause your skin to be extra sensitive to light
- Sunlight sensitivity caused by medication. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, acne medicines and herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort can cause skin and eye sensitivity.
Tips for Using Light Therapy Lamps
Light therapy lamps are designed specifically for bright light therapy and they’re easy to find in home improvement stores or online. You can also purchase them from medical supply companies, but make sure the lamp has been cleared by the FDA before you buy it.
Here are some basics on how to use your light therapy lamps:
- Timing: Light therapy lamps are designed to be used for 20-30 minutes in the morning when you wake up.
- Use Consistency: It's best to start your sessions at the same time every morning, as consistency will help your internal clock adapt to seeing a bright light at the same time every day.
- Intensity to use for SAD: it’s recommended that you use a 10,000-lux box at a distance that’s roughly 16-24 inches from your face.
- Basics of use: Don’t look directly into the light when you use the device. Instead, try eating breakfast, reading a book or doing a similar activity during each session. In addition, the light should be going straight into your eyes to work the best. So keep your eyes open while using light therapy because it is not recommended that you use them with closed eyelids or that you wear sunglasses during treatment sessions.
- Maintenance: It's important to note that your light will dim over time as the bulbs wear out, losing their intensity. It's essential to replace your bulbs, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, even if they haven't burnt out.
- Seasonality: For seasonal affective disorder treatment, users should start bright light treatments in the early fall. Those who have severe fall/winter depression may need to start a few weeks earlier and continue during the rainy seasons to get the best results.
Keep a Log of Your Progress
Tracking your progress before and after bright light treatment sessions through a log will help you know how effective it is. Formally monitoring how you are doing by writing it down also lets you know if you should decrease or increase your session occurrence and length. Factors that are good to keep track of include your mood, eating & sleeping habits and energy levels.
How to Select a Phototherapy Lamp
Always consult your doctor before starting light therapy to ensure it is the right treatment for you. If your doctor recommends starting light therapy the Bright Health Bright Light Therapy Unit is a great place to start because it’s unique 360 degree distribution and