Is Artificial Light Therapy Effective?

From the 1990s to the present, scientists have become increasingly interested in bright light therapy, conducting multiple studies that find artificial light therapy to be an effective treatment for anything from ADHD, circadian rhythm disorders, Alzheimer's, and bipolar disorder to jet lag and mood disorders. 

As an example, a study in 2015 indicated that artificial light therapy delivered results that were just as effective for alleviating the symptoms of acute depression as cognitive behavioral therapy. Licensed therapist Katie Ziskind had this to say about the results.

"Certain lights such as full-spectrum lights can help with mild depression. Sometimes, people feel an uplift in mood after exposure to these lights. You can also buy vitamin D3 lights to help mimic the sun too. These lights mimic the sunlight, which can be hard to get in the winter months. Bright light therapy usually involves reading near a special type of light for 40 minutes a day. A more natural light therapy would be laying outside in the sun on a beach on a summer day.” 

The following are a few other examples that show that chromotherapy works:

1) Research has shown that a lamp with light intensity of 10K lux set 16 to 24 inches away at a 45-degree angle from the eyes for 30 minutes can help in treating SAD and other mood disorders.

2) According to the Alzheimer's Society, a small, but well-conducted study showed promising effects of chromotherapy on the restlessness and disturbed sleep patterns of dementia patients.

3) Doctors today regularly prescribe the use of lightboxes that use phototherapy to reset circadian rhythm to patients with SAD and sleep disorders. The therapy helps patients develop regular sleep cycles and sleep through the night.

4) A study published in BMJ Journals found that artificial light therapy may help treat postpartum depression. They compared it with talk psychotherapy and found the benefits of both treatments were similar. 

5) A phototherapy study was conducted on 37 institutionalized patients who were 70 to 93-years-old. After three weeks, the researchers found significant improvements in their sleep and cognitive abilities.

6) Another study found that 2,500 LUX intensity used for at least two hours daily for a week caused remissions of SAD.

Bright Light Therapy vs. Red Light Therapy

According to the Mayo Clinic, red light therapy can be used to treat skin disorders such as psoriasis. This is a different type of light therapy, and it is sometimes confused for bright light therapy, even among doctors. However, red-light therapy involves using a type of device that emits red or near-infrared lights from LED bulbs, which is different from the bright light therapy lamps we will be discussing in this guide. 

Another difference is that red light is an energy you can't see outside of the harmful ultraviolet range. Light from bright light therapy lamps used for sleep and mood disorders is visible, but UV rays are mostly filtered out to protect your skin and eyes. When looking for a light therapy box, try to get one that emits as little ultraviolet light as possible.

Tanning Beds are Not a Substitute

Bear in mind that UV lamps used in tanning beds are not intended to treat any illness or disorder, and they are certainly not a substitute for bright light therapy. You can get a tan from both the sun and from tanning bulbs, but the latter emits harmful UV rays which are linked to skin cancers and wrinkles.