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Have you ever heard of SAD light therapy lamps? Light therapy is a treatment that uses a specific type of lamp to help relieve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression. But what exactly do light therapy lamps do, and how do they help? Let’s go over a few of the basics.

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs around the changing of the seasons each year. SAD is most commonly experienced during the fall and winter months when the weather is colder and there are fewer hours of sunlight, but it can affect some people during the spring and summer months. For those that experience SAD during the winter months, the symptoms typically subside once spring arrives (and vice versa for those with a different seasonal pattern).

Symptoms of SAD include frequent or constant lack of energy each day, sadness, oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, low interest in activities, irregular appetite, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

What is Light Therapy?

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a treatment that uses light to help relieve the symptoms of SAD, especially for those who experience symptoms in the fall or winter. The light emitted from special light therapy lamps (also referred to as “SAD lamps” or “sun lamps”) has been found to be effective in helping people with SAD. These lamps emit bright, UV-free light that can imitate the sun and help to regulate the body’s melatonin and serotonin, which are hormones that are related to sleep and mood. For those who struggle with shorter days and lack of sunlight during the winter, controlled exposure to light therapy lamps can help boost energy, productivity, and mood.

How to Use a Light Therapy Lamp

While you do not need a prescription to purchase a light therapy lamp, it is a good idea to discuss the idea of light therapy with your primary care physician or mental health provider to decide whether it is a good treatment option for you, especially if you are currently taking any prescription medications. Light therapy can also pose risks to those with light-sensitive skin or eye conditions and to those with bipolar disorder. Ask your provider for their treatment plan recommendation regarding the lamp’s brightness, time of day, and the length of time spent by the lamp each day.

Once you get the go-ahead to begin light therapy, be sure to purchase a UV-free lamp with bright white light between 2,500-10,000 lux. 10,000-lux lamp should typically only be used for around 20-30 minutes each day, while a 2,500-lux lamp will need to be used for longer to get the same effect.

You’ll want to sit about 2-3 feet away from your lamp and position yourself so that the light is indirectly hitting your eyes and face. Never look or stare directly at the lamp due to the risk of eye damage. You can set the lamp on your desk while you work, next to you while you read or watch TV, or across the table from you as you eat breakfast. As mentioned, talk with your provider to get their recommendation!

Want to learn more about light therapy and the benefits of SAD lamps? Schedule a visit or telehealth call with your primary care physician today.