Can Light Therapy Treat Depression?
Light therapy is an increasingly popularized form of treatment for a variety of disorders that people suffer from. This form of treatment is relatively new, and involves sitting near a 10,000-lux light box for 20 minutes to an hour every day. How can sitting near a bright light benefit your health? Let’s find out why.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is typically known as the “winter blues,” but can affect people at all times of the year. It it known for causing fatigue, anxiety, and is considered a subset of clinical depression. SAD is often experienced during a change of the seasons, where there is less sunlight. It is particularly common during the months of January and February, but can extend to the beginning of June in some areas.
Scientists don’t know the exact causes of SAD, but there is strong evidence between this disorder and the amount of sunlight people get. When the weather is gloomy, or the days are shorter, your body produces more melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. An uptick in this hormone can throw off circadian rhythms, causing fatigue and depression.
To combat this, light therapy has been used successfully to simulate the benefits a human body gets while outside in the sun. According to research, people who utilized light therapy for 15 minutes a day found a marked improvement with their SAD symptoms.
Thanks to the successes of using light therapy, doctors are beginning to explore how it can be used to treat other conditions. This includes jet lag, sleep disorders, dementia, and depression caused by bipolar disorder.
According to a studyat Northwestern University, researchers studied 46 patients who suffered from moderate bipolar depression. Patients were asked to undergo light therapy for 15-minutes every day for four-six weeks. At its conclusion, scientists found that 68% of participants achieved remission of depression, and were able to return to work and function as their normal selves.
Light therapy appears to be a promising treatment option for people who suffer from SAD or other forms of depression. As it is a completely non-invasive form of treatment, it is definitely an attractive option for people who struggle with such things. If light therapy is something you’d be interested in trying, there are tons of light boxes that can be purchasedand used in the comfort of your own home.