Light Therapy... Natural Alternative To Anti-Depressants
The medical journal The Lancet reports that the lack of bright light like
sunlight may be a cause of depression. Bright light produces serotonin in our
brains, and scientists believe that low levels of serotonin contribute to
depression. As light produces serotonin, our natural balance returns, and we're
productive again. Clinical studies at Yale, UCSD and others, have shown
dramatic results using bright environmental light (10,000 lux intensity).
Light therapy, also called bright light therapy or phototherapy, has been used
to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder) since the early 1980s. Many mental
health professionals now consider light therapy to be standard treatment for
seasonal affective disorder.
Light Does What Anti-Depressants Can't
The discovery that light produces serotonin is significant, because it may be
the only way to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Pharmaceutical
companies have never been able to replicate this process. Anti-depressant
medications are designed to keep serotonin in the system, but they cannot
produce it. For those who already have low levels of serotonin, SSRI's are not
as effective as they otherwise might be. This is why light may be a beneficial
supplement. Recent studies suggest depression may be more effectively treated
with light and medication rather than medication alone.
Since 1995, under the Essentials Of Life division, Tan Plus has sold the Aurora™ light boxes and other "natural" lighting products in partnership with Lumiram, the largest
manufacturer of full spectrum lighting for home, office, and industry.
The Aurora™ Bright Light System provides 10,000 Lux of bright, color balanced, sun-like ray's at a distance of
36" (12,000 Lux at 24"), which, unlike most other light boxes, does not require
Note: Lux is a unit used to measure light intensity. Indoor light levels range from
200 to 700 lux, while outdoor light levels, on a sunny spring day, range from
2,000 to well beyond 10,000 lux.
The Aurora™ light box uses the latest high power and high C.R.I. fluorescent technology to best
simulate the sun's rays. (Lumiram, high lumen output, with patented unique
phosphor blend full spectrum fluorescents). The Aurora™ light box utilizes an advanced flicker-free high power factor electronic ballast for
consistent operation and is equipped with a special prismatic lens for
comfortable, glare-free light distribution, and total protection from U.V. rays
and electromagnetic radiations.
Light therapy units do not emit UV rays and therefore do not produce a tan or
The light box should be mounted at the recommended distance for the desired
intensity. You sit directly in front of the unit as the light shines into your
eyes. The eyes need to be open, and sunglasses should not be worn. You may
prefer to look at the light box briefly at regular intervals. The light box
intensity of 10,000 lux is much brighter than normal indoor light which is
usually 300-500 lux, but not as bright as summer sunlight which can be as
bright as 100,000 lux.
Light therapy has potential benefits for people with SAD and may be helpful if
• Don't Want To Take Medications Such As Antidepressants
• Can't Tolerate The Side Effects Of Antidepressants
• Tried Antidepressants But They Haven't Been Effective
• Want An Alternative To Psychotherapy
• Are Pregnant And Concerned About The Effects Of Antidepressants On Your
• Lack Insurance Coverage For Mental Health Services
Light therapy may be helpful in treating conditions other than SAD. However, it
shouldn't be a substitute for standard treatment. And keep in mind that little
research has been done using light therapy for other disorders. These other
disorders may include:
• Depression Other Than Seasonal Affective Disorder
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
• Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
• Postpartum Depression
• Some Forms Of Insomnia
How To Use Light Therapy
The light box is placed in front of the user at the recommended distance for the
desired intensity. One should be directly in front of the unit as the light
shines into the user's eyes. The eyes need be open, and sunglasses should not
be worn. Some may be instructed to look at the light box briefly at regular
intervals. The light box intensity of 10,000 lux is much brighter than normal
indoor light which is usually 300-500 lux, but not as bright as summer sunlight
which can be as bright as 100,000 lux.
The Aurora™ Bright Light System provides a measured amount of balanced spectrum light equivalent to standing
outdoors on a clear spring day. This has been shown to help regulate the body
clock. Photo biologists point out that the light is registered by the eyes
through the retina, which then transfers impulses to the hypothalamus in the
brain to normalize the body clock function. The light from the box will help
synchronize sleep/wake patterns with one's work and lifestyle.
Regular daily usage of the Aurora™ Bright Light System at the same time each day is recommended until symptoms disappear. After that
period the patient may be able to cut session time or split a half-hour morning
session into 15 minutes each in the morning and afternoon. Once a routine is
established, most people can skip a couple of days without ill-effects.
However, by the third day without light therapy most Seasonal Affective
Disorder sufferers will see symptoms return.
Light therapy sessions should begin at the time of the year before symptoms
become obvious or distressing. Most patients will discontinue use in the spring
when they receive enough natural light. The times when usage is necessary can
be greatly affected by the amount of sunlight or cloudy rainy weather.
It Is Possible To Overuse A Light Box
Overuse can result in irritability and agitation, which is often followed by
fatigue. Irritability, agitation and initial eyestrain for 1-3 days appear to
be the main side effects. Inducing mania is seen in about 1% of light box users
and mild hypomania may occur from persistent overuse. Some drugs make patients
photosensitive, as can contact lenses, and those patients may need to be
conservative when using staring light therapy. Those on antidepressants can
often reduce their dosage, with their doctor's consent, once light therapy
Given the effectiveness of treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder, it would
be a shame for anyone suffering from SAD not to seek help. SAD is often
correctly self-diagnosed and anyone can purchase light devices. Nevertheless,
other illness factors may be at play, and seeking the guidance of a qualified
medical practitioner in both the diagnosis and treatment of SAD is highly
recommended. (Usage patterns outlined herein represent those most typically
given by current clinical practices. They are not intended to encourage
self-prescription or to contradict an individual's prescribed therapy.)
Light Therapy And Bi-Polar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because of extreme swings in
mood, thought and behavior. Bipolar is different than major depression in that
it is marked by episodes of euphoria or mania. These episodes commonly last
from hours to days, but can also last for months.
Bipolar Disorder afflicts 2 million adults, and possibly another 1 million plus
children. It usually starts in adolescence, with males first experiencing a
manic episode and females experiencing a depressive one.
There are two types of bipolar illnesses, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 is
more severe than bipolar 2, and is marked by one or more manic swings followed
by one or more major depressive episodes. Bipolar 2 generally starts with one
or more depressive episodes, followed by a milder (hypomanic) episode.
Symptoms Of Bi-Polar Disorder
The depressive symptoms are similar to major depression. Mania symptoms may
include some of the following:
• Heightened Mood
• Excited Behavior, Increased Energy Or Activity
• Aggressive Behavior And/Or Irritability
• Lack Of Desire For Sleep
• Impulsiveness Or Poor Judgment, Reckless Behavior
• Racing Speech, Thoughts, Etc.
• Overly Optimistic, Egoistic, Delusions Of Grandeur
• Hallucinations (Extreme Mania)
Light Therapy Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Specialized bright light is known as an effective antidepressant. Because most
bipolar patients suffer from depressive episodes during the winter and in
overcast conditions, researchers feel that light therapy should be an obvious
choice for manic depression. Several studies have demonstrated the success of
light therapy in averting depressive episodes in manic depression. In January
2004, the Cochrane Medical Review recommended light therapy for treating
Light appears to be successful for two reasons: First, bipolar patients suffer
from low serotonin levels during depressive lows, and second, they are also
supersensitive to melatonin fluctuations. Since light effectively regulates
melatonin and serotonin, bipolar patients respond almost immediately.
Light Therapy & Bipolar Children
Because light therapy poses no long-term negative side effects, it is also
recommended for children. One of the more accurate works on childhood bipolar
disorder, The Bipolar Child, recommends light therapy as a first line
Cautions With Light Therapy and Bipolar Disorder
Researchers have noted that manic depression sufferers (bipolar 1) should be on
an effective mood stabilizer before using light therapy. Because light produces
serotonin, it may precipitate a manic reaction. Light has been found to be safe
when used for less than an hour at a time, but physician supervision is always
Note: Tan Plus and Lumiram makes no medical claims and it is recommended to consult
your physician or therapist on how to use light therapy.