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How does Light Therapy treat Depression?

Light therapy is a safe and effective treatment for many people with SAD or Depression. You can potentially brighten your mood, give yourself more energy, and decrease food cravings by turning on a bright light.

Most experts agree that light therapy treatment requires between 2,500 and 10,000 lux. If you’re going to take this route, you might as well purchase lights that emit about 10,000 lux because light boxes that emit fewer lux typically require more time to work as effectively.  Most people benefit from exposure to bright lights for about 30 minutes a day (although there’s not a hard and fast rule). However, some people reportedly require as much as two hours per day, and a few folks seem to get by on as little as 15 minutes. Therefore, you may need to experiment in order to find the right amount of exposure for you.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Start with 30 minutes of light exposure per day for a week or two.
  2. If your symptoms don’t start improving, consider increasing your exposure by 15-minute increments.

If you get up to two hours of light exposure each day, increasing further isn’t likely to help you. Don’t despair; if light therapy of up to two hours per day for ten days or more doesn’t help you, other effective treatments are available. We describe these treatments throughout this book as well as help you decide if you may need professional assistance.

A majority of people with SAD or Depression fined that exposure to bright light therapy works best in the morning — so turn your light box on in the morning. Generally, the earlier in the morning, you turn the box on, the better. That’s because of the way light therapy seems to affect your circadian rhythms. In fact, if you move your light therapy from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., you may fall asleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.