It’s November, cold and foggy outside, and I have been workingÂ at my desk since 6am with 10,000 lux shining into my face from a light box twoÂ feet away. This is my light therapy. I bought the light box (this one, as it happens, pictured right) after reading The Depression Cure.
Does it help with my depression? Possibly – but I am trying so many other things at the same time that it is difficult to tell.
Light boxes are marketed for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but a growing body of research suggests light therapy helps ‘normal’ depression too. (See for exampleÂ Even C, SchrÃ¶der CM, Friedman S, Rouillon F. Efficacy of light therapy in nonseasonal depression: a systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders 2008;108:11-23)
The Center for Environmental Therapeutics (CET) researches and promotesÂ “natural, proven ways to improve your mood, sleep, and energy”. It says:
Given the success and rapid spread of light therapy for SAD, clinical researchers immediately wondered how far the simple technology could be applied. Multiple studiesâ€”although performed on a smaller scale than for SADâ€”covered a wide canvas, almost all with encouraging results.
Light therapy also worked for nonseasonal depression, even unremitting chronic depression that didnâ€™t lift for years. It worked for mothers who became depressed during pregnancy, offering the promise of a reprieve from potentially dangerous drug therapy. Patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, whether or not they were depressed, showed improvement in cognitive performance, along with a shift earlier in their circadian rhythms. Elderly, institutionalized patients showed mood improvement, and a slowing of cognitive decline.
Light therapy is as good as the standard antidepressant approach. With fewer side effects and much less overall risk (not zero risk, but less).
If you decide to get a light box, have a look on PsychEducation.org and CET for guidance but as far as I can tell it needs to be 10,000 lux minimum and fairly big. 30 minutes in the morning should do the trick, with the light hitting your eyeballs from above. CET has an online ‘morningness-eveningness’ questionnaire for determining when you need the light (6.15am in my case). This is based on an estimation of when your body produces melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body clock’s day-night cycle.
Take it away fellas..