Bright Light Therapy

A Bright Way to Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, is a subtype of depression.  The most common type of SAD often begins in late fall when daylight hours decrease with normal mood returning with the longer daylight hours of springs.  Light therapy, often used in combination with medication and behavioral therapy, is an effective  treatment for SAD.

Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light box for a certain length of time each day.  student studying in front of bright lightThe type and intensity of light from the light box is not found in normal household lighting.  It is designed to mimic bright, outdoor summer light and cause a biochemical change in the brain to lift mood and relieve symptoms of SAD.

Using a light box is easy.  Sit approximately 12-15 inches in front of the light for about 30 minutes each day while reading, studying or using a computer.  Light boxes are often adjustable so the user can set the light to an appropriate height/angle so the eyes are level with the center of the light.

Light therapy has few side effect but can cause increased irritability, excessive energy, eye strain, headaches and an inability to sleep.  Decreasing the length of use, moving the light several inches further away, and avoiding use too late in the day can help reduce the side effects.  People with manic depressive disorders, skin or eye conditions that may respond unfavorably to light therapy, or those taking certain medications may not be good candidates for light therapy.  Consult a health care provider if you have questions about using a light box.

If you are interested in using light therapy but want to be sure it helps before you buy a device, a light box is available to use on campus and is free for registered student use.  Interested students can schedule an appointment to use the light, located in the Health Education office (Carkoski Commons Room 100) by calling 507-389-5689.  Appointments are available Monday-Friday until 12:00 noon.