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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 close sitting.
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 vitamin D.
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 you:

 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 Developing Fetus
 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 becomes effective.

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 Bipolar Disorders.

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 treatment.

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 recommended.

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.  


Disclaimer: Information contained on this site should not be construed as medical advice. Product statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug administration. The products we offer are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have a medical condition, consult your health care practitioner.

Copyright © 2006-2013 • Ray Allard • All Rights Reserved
since 1995
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since 1995
S.A.D. Light Therapy
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