Light Therapy for Depression : Can it Help You?


Light Therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder in Women

For many years, my favorite psychiatrists have been prescribing light therapy for depression in my clients. Especially for my clients with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), light therapy is a treatment they enjoy and with which they have great success. Light therapy was first demonstrated for winter depression (SAD) 30 years ago. Most of my clients also use an antidepressant and light therapy for depression. It’s generally compatible with medications, so you don’t have to get off your medicines if it isn’t working. If you want to try it first, you can do that without high risk!


If you are interested in light therapy, you may have to educate your doctor or psychiatrist about it or bring it up at least. I have found that most psychiatrists are more likely to go with pharmaceuticals than natural interventions.

How Does Light Therapy for Depression Work?

  • Regulating Circadian Rhythm ????️:
    • Our bodies operate on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm. This internal clock influences sleep, wakefulness, and various physiological processes.
    • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often disrupts this rhythm due to reduced sunlight exposure during winter months.
    • Light therapy acts as a “reset” button for the body’s internal clock. By exposing individuals to bright, artificial light, it mimics natural sunlight, helping to realign the circadian rhythm and combat symptoms of SAD.
  • Increasing Serotonin Levels ????:
    • Serotonin is often dubbed the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. It plays a pivotal role in mood regulation, appetite, and sleep.
    • Reduced sunlight exposure, especially during winter, can lead to decreased serotonin levels, contributing to feelings of depression and lethargy.
    • Light therapy stimulates the brain to produce more serotonin, leading to improved mood and a general sense of well-being.
  • Suppressing Melatonin Production ????:
    • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep. It’s produced in higher quantities as it gets dark, signaling the body that it’s time to sleep.
    • During winter, the extended hours of darkness can lead to increased melatonin production, causing symptoms like drowsiness and fatigue, commonly seen in SAD patients.
    • By using light therapy, especially in the morning, melatonin production is suppressed, promoting wakefulness and reducing feelings of tiredness.

How To Do Light Therapy

Light therapy lamps should be purchased and used under the guidance of your doctor. You will use your light therapy box in the morning for 20-60 minutes, depending on the dose prescribed by your doctor. Your box creates an effect like daylight and has no harmful rays for most people. It should help your body relax, improve your mood, and also help you feel energized.

You can also do other things while sitting in front of your light, such as reading.

Are There Any Side Effects To Light Therapy

Side effects with light therapy for depression are rare but can include headaches and an elevated mood. Also, if you have eye problems, you should check with your ophthalmologist.

There are certain eye conditions, such as:

  • Inherited retinal degenerations
  • Age-related maculopathy
  • Diabetic retinopathy

 that put you at risk when using light therapy for depression. 


Additionally, you may be taking medicines that increase your eye’s sensitivity and, therefore, your vulnerability to the light. Doctor supervision is essential. 



How to Choose the Proper Light Box for Light Therapy

depression treatment with light

How to Choose a Light Box


The Center for Environmental Therapeutics (CET) has published guidelines for how to select a lightbox. This website is comprehensive and will answer just about any question you might have about light therapy.

This is directly from the website.

They suggest: 


INTENSITY: 10,000 lux illumination placed at a comfortable sitting distance. Check the distance suggested carefully. Ask the manufacturer for calibration data and whether a broad-field illuminometer was used.

PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS: Check if technical information is absent. UV FILTER: Fluorescent lamps should be fitted with a diffusing screen that filters ultraviolet (UV) rays that are harmful to the eyes and skin. Claims of UV protection are common, but questionable if a polycarbonate filter was not used.

SPECTRUM: White light is preferable. “Full spectrum” lamps and blue (or bluish) lamps with color temperatures above 5000 Kelvin are not superior in efficacy.

ANGLE OF GAZE: The individual sits at a desk, usually looking down at reading matter or looking straight ahead. To avoid visual glare from the bright light, the lamp should project downward toward the eyes at an angle.

SIZE OF LIT AREA: even though a small light box seems elegant and transportable, even small head movements diminish the wished-for therapeutic dose of light to the eyes.


Kinds of Depression that Respond to Light Therapy


Evidence is growing that light therapy may even help with major nonseasonal depression, depression during pregnancy, perimenopause, and bipolar disorder. Also, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and Parkinson’s.

Despite legitimate research demonstrating that light therapy may be helpful for all of these other areas, scammers are making fantastical claims about light therapy. 

It’s essential to be skeptical and cautious of some of the claims you may see online for light therapy for wrinkles or hair growth that are just ploys to get you to spend money. 


More Links on Light Boxes

Light Box


CET recommends BOXelite OS. You can find it here.  


MORE INFORMATION Check the Web sites of the Society for Light Therapy and Biological Rhythms at and the Center for Environmental Therapeutics at

References for Light Therapy for Depression


Biederman, J., Newcorn, J., & Sprich, S. (1998). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and comorbid disorders: issues of overlapping symptoms. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(12), 1725-1729.

Rohan, K. J., Roecklein, K. A., Tierney Lindsey, K., Johnson, L. G., Lippy, R. D., Lacy, T. J., & Barton, F. B. (2004). Randomized trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy versus light therapy for seasonal affective disorder: Acute outcomes. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(8), 1433-1439.

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depression Research and Treatment, 2015, 1-6.

Coogan, A. N., & McGowan, N. M. (2017). A systematic review of circadian function, chronotype and chronotherapy in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 9(3), 129-147.

seasonal affective disorder and women with adhd


Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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