Light therapy and its benefits

Many people look forward to winter and the skiing, ice skating, and snowball fights that come with it. However, many others are less enthusiastic. As the days grow shorter, they start to feel demoralized or even depressed. Read on to learn what causes the winter blues and what you can do about them.

Woman doing a light therapy treatment on her face.

Winter means less light

Do you feel down or depressed during the winter? If so, a lack of light could be the culprit. The shorter fall and winter days affect the health of nearly one in five Canadians.

Having less daylight causes many people to experience a dip in energy and mood. In more severe cases, this phenomenon is referred to as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder. This condition is estimated to affect 1% to 10% of the population in northern countries.

Why does light affect mood?

Light actually helps regulate our biological rhythms. Specifically, it impacts bodily functions such as sleep and hormone secretion, which follow specific rhythms based on the time of day. That means a lack of light can disrupt our brain chemistry, which in turn can lead to sleep disorders and other problems. Depressive symptoms are also a common side effect of this disruption.

What is light therapy?

Light therapy is a non-drug treatment used to counter the effects of light deprivation. More specifically, it involves exposing your eyes to light of a similar intensity and spectrum to sunlight. It is used to treat depression, the effects of jet lag, and sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Among other things, light therapy affects serotonin (the “happiness hormone”), which helps regulate our mood and circadian rhythm.

For best results, light therapy sessions should be done first thing in the morning, every day from early fall until spring. You may see an improvement as early as the first week of treatment, but optimal results take around four weeks to appear.

What should you look for in a light therapy lamp?

What kind of bulb do you need?

It’s important to consider what technology a light therapy lamp uses. Though there are many different types of devices on the market, LED lamps are considered the most practical. They don’t need to be placed too close or too far away to be effective, and they have a good lifespan. In addition, LEDs do not emit UV or infrared rays, which are harmful to the skin and eyes. This makes them the safest option.

How many lux do you need?

First of all, keep in mind that light intensity will impact the length of your light therapy sessions. The more powerful the lamp, the shorter the required exposure time.

It’s recommended to use a lamp with a minimum intensity of 2,000 lux. However, according to clinical standards, 10,000 lux is preferable. At this level, you would only need about 30 minutes of light exposure to reap the benefits.

What is a lux?

The lux is a unit used to measure the illumination of an object or a place. A well-lit office, for example, will clock in at 300 to 500 lux, while a sunny day can reach 100,000 lux.

La luminothérapie a-t-elle des effets secondaires?

Although uncommon, side effects can occur during light therapy sessions. Some people may experience headaches, nausea, or eye strain for a short time after a session.

Last updated on October 31, 2022

Do you have questions about light therapy or seasonal depression?

Consult a pharmacist at one of our Brunet locations. They’ll be able to give you personalized advice.

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Light therapy and its benefits

As the days grow shorter, many people start to feel demoralized or even depressed. Read on to learn about the benefits of light therapy.
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