Frequently Asked Questions About Light Therapy For Depression

Do you ever get the urge to travel and go on a relaxing vacation whenever you’re overwhelmed with life’s challenges? Going outside and getting our dose of sunshine can be extremely beneficial for our mind and body.

However, it may be more difficult to go to our favorite places with the pandemic restrictions and unwind. It becomes more of a challenge during the colder seasons when we feel less motivated to go outside.

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While staying at home can keep us safe, not getting enough sunlight can be detrimental to our mental health. In some cases, people who don’t get enough sunlight develop Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

SAD is a type of depression induced by seasonal changes and is also called “winter depression.” People typically experience this condition during the colder seasons, such as fall and winter.

But exactly how can sunlight affect our mental health that much? One of the explanations is that a reduced sunlight exposure causes our biological clocks to shift. This shift may cause hormonal imbalances, which, in turn, affect people’s mood and sleep patterns. 

Serotonin, a chemical that induces happiness, is one of the most affected hormones by decreased sunlight exposure. Seasonal changes also affect melatonin, a hormone that encourages sleep.

The lack of sunlight stimulates an overproduction of melatonin. It is why people feel more sluggish and sleepy at home and during the cold months.

There are several ways to treat SAD. The most common are antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

The most simple treatment and preventive measure is sunlight exposure. But if you’re not able to go outside and get natural sunlight, you could alternatively try light therapy. 

Light therapy, or phototherapy, makes use of an artificial light source that mimics natural sunlight. By simply exposing yourself to a light therapy box, you can boost your mood in the comfort of your own home.

Are you interested in knowing more about the science and benefits of light therapy? Here are some of the answers to frequently asked questions about it. 

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What is the best light therapy for depression?

The best light therapy for depression should use a lightbox with at least 10,000-lux. This way, it will mimic the sunlight. Furthermore, the lightbox must also filter out harmful UV light to prevent any risk of skin and eye damage.

An excellent light therapy box can improve the mood and ease symptoms of depression, specifically that of seasonal affective (SAD).

How long does it take for light therapy to work for depression?

For light therapy to work, experts recommend using it daily. Generally, patients will see an improvement after three to five days of undergoing the treatment.

However, note that the treatment’s effectiveness highly depends on the patient’s response rate. Hence, the recovery period may vary for days or even months, depending on the patient.

Do SAD lights work for depression?

SAD light can improve symptoms of the condition in a short period. Imitating sunlight can improve energy levels as it boosts the brain’s production of melatonin and serotonin.

However, it is not a cure for non-seasonal depression. It is best to consult your mental health professional for long-term treatment of non-seasonal depression.

Does light therapy help anxiety?

As light therapy gives an immediate boost of energy level, in some ways, it can also work for the mind’s relaxation. The therapy process helps ease the mind from worrying and relieve anxiety-related stress.

However, there may be other factors of your anxiety the light therapy cannot address. If this is the case, it would be best to reach out to your mental health provider.

Can SAD lights cause anxiety?

There is no evidence that SAD lights can cause anxiety. As exposure to light therapy addresses SAD symptoms, it also extends to easing anxiety symptoms. However, excessive blue wavelengths (such as that of computers and smartphones) can disrupt melatonin production.

As a result, it can cause anxiety and symptoms of the condition. That’s why it’s essential to check with your light therapy provider about the wavelength of your lightbox.

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Does light therapy really work for wrinkles?

A specific type of light therapy called red light therapy (RLT) has been found to address skin conditions such as wrinkles. With its low wavelength red light, research has found that it works for scarring and aging. While RLT does not remove wrinkles instantly, there is scientific evidence that can prove that it works.

Can you overdo LED light therapy?

Like any therapy and medication, LED light therapy can be harmful when taken excessively. Some research has said that using LED light therapy too much can result in a manic state.

It’s important to always consult a professional about the prescribed lightbox, its duration of use, and general usage. This way, you can optimally use light therapy without the risk of overdoing it.

Is red light therapy a hoax?

Presently, there are few studies on the effectiveness of red light therapy as a treatment process. While there is numerous research on its potential application, extensive clinical studies are yet to be made to determine its effectiveness.

We all want to get our dose of sunshine from our favorite beaches or parks. As much as we want to go outside and travel, we’re often limited to just staying at home.

We have learned that not getting enough sunlight can lead to energy loss and, in some cases, depression. Fortunately, light therapy offers a way to harness the sun’s benefits without even leaving the house. 

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With the help of light therapy boxes, your biological clock and other body processes can shift back to normal. If you have depression, light therapy can help minimize your symptoms. Just make sure to consult a mental health professional regarding the appropriate measures before you undergo light treatment. In addition to light therapy, you could also incorporate some habits into your lifestyle to keep you healthy while staying at home.

Exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating a well-balanced diet are some must-do helpful practices. You can also work near a clear glass window to increasing exposure to natural sunlight. All of these practices can help in managing symptoms of depression and preventing relapse. 

Note that depression is a complex illness that can’t simply be treated by light therapy alone. So if you think that you’re suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider to discuss optimum solutions.

Depression is a serious mental disorder that affects over 264 million people globally. Moreover, studies show the depression rate has likely tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic started. 

Remember that we can still be healthy even if we don’t have much freedom to travel as much as before. With the right tools and practices, we can keep our physical and mental health in good shape. Hopefully, this article has given you insight into ways to maintain your health when you’re unable to go outside and travel.   

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