Viewing Light Differently

Excerpt of an article by Carina Storrs | CNN

(CNN) Light therapy, in which people sit at home in front of a special light box for about 30 minutes in the morning every day is based on the fact that the light can offer effective treatment for some people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

But could light therapy also help other disorders? One explanation of how it works is by resetting circadian rhythms, our body’s internal clock that controls sleep, metabolism, mood and stress. Disturbances in circadian rhythms have been associated not just with SAD, but also depression, bipolar disorder, and dementia.

A recent study suggests the beneficial effects of light therapy may indeed extend to depression. Researchers looked at a small group of 122 adults with depression, which is more prevalent than SAD and which can last throughout the year.

“I think this opens up another treatment option for people with non-seasonal depression and we need more treatment options because not everybody gets better with the standard treatment options,” said Dr. Raymond W. Lam, professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Lam is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Study participants did not have to actually look at the box and could instead read, watch TV or do other activities. The boxes emitted 10,000 lux, which is the amount of light someone would be exposed to if they went outside at about 7 a.m. during the summer, Lam said.

In addition to depression, there is emerging evidence light therapy may help people with bipolar disorder, dementia and chronic pain. A 2014 study found that light therapy in combination with sleep deprivation helped reduce depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder. Other studies have suggested that light therapy may improve sleep among people with dementia and their caregivers, and may ease lower back pain.


I do not own stock in any company that manufactures, distributes, sells, or uses light boxes or any of parts of light boxes. I do not own any company that directly or indirectly benefits from light box therapy. I am not a doctor, nurse, social worker, or statistician. I am  a survivor of cancer, brain injury, and ataxia. I have several challenges that may be resolved in whole or in part by light box therapy. Like you, I am looking for solutions.

My opinion

My primary concern is the study involved so few people that it is little more than an assumption the therapy may apply to issues other than SAD. However, the study is a fantastic step forward in proving or disproving the therapy may work for conditions other than SAD.


Thank you to Carina Storrs for writing the article; CNN for committing its resources to the article; the personnel who created and participated in the study; JAMA Psychiatry for publishing the study; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.

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