Light therapy is such a wonderful and simple tool to use to help with the symptoms of SAD but if not done properly it can appear to be useless.
Here are a few things you need to check to ensure you are getting the most out of your light.
Do you have the right light?
Studies have shown that your light needs to be classed as at least 10,000 lux. Lux is the measurement of light at any specific distance from the source but the level drops off the further away from the source you measure. Any light over a certain brightness can be 10,000 lux but if this is only measured an inch away from the source it will be useless as a therapeutic light for SAD. This is why size really matters. Larger lights emit 10,000 lux at a greater distance meaning it doesn’t have to be on the end of your nose to work. Smaller lights can be 10,000 lux at a sensible distance but to achieve this they have to be much brighter and this can lead to headaches and dizziness.
Do you have your light in the right place?
Many people don’t have their light close enough to them. As I mentioned above, it needs to be at a distance where you are getting 10,000 lux when it reaches your eyes. The manual for your light should tell you what distance this is or you can obtain a light meter that will help you put it in the right place.
Are you using your light at the right time?
Although for most people morning use is the most effective it can differ from person to person. Some find that if they use their light in the morning they are tired again at 8pm and go on to wake in the early hours of the morning. In these cases it might be that it is better to use your light in the afternoon or evening. Other people find that they need some kind of light all day long as the effects of their lamp wear off. Effective light use must be tailored to your personal needs.
This test can help you find out when the best time is for you to use your lamp. However, once you have started using your light pay attention to how it affects you and work with your own responses.
Are you using it for the right length of time?
Most manuals that come with light boxes say to use them for 30 minutes, but is that right for you? Some people need a much longer period of time. If the standard 30 minutes isn’t working for you try an hour. I personally use a smaller, lower lux light all day at work as I find that the effects of my large light have worn off by the time I get to work.
Are you consistent with your light?
Some people find instant relief from using their light but other people find it can take up to a few weeks to notice a difference. It is important that you use your light at the same time every day. Unlike taking medication as and when you feel you need it this light is affecting the basic rhythms of your body and if it is not kept up the body will go back to its natural state. This means for the best results you need to make sure you use it at the same time, even at the weekends.
Light therapy helps a lot of people, but there are some that do not find it helpful. If this is the case it might be worth investigating other causes of your SAD.
For more information on light therapy please visit the Center for Environmental Therapeutics’s page