During the winter, daylight hours are reduced and many spend longer indoors, causing some people to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Exposure to light therapy helps these sufferers to improve their mood and rebalance their circadian rhythms (our sleeping and waking patterns). Light therapy can also be used to relieve the client of jet lag, depression and sleep disorders. Light therapy exposes the client to a light that is brighter than indoor light but dimmer than direct sunlight. Tanning lights, heat lamps, UV light and full-spectrum light are not to be used for light therapy.
Client and therapist work together to decide when exposure to light will work most effectively, which is usually in the morning upon waking. The client should start to respond to the therapy after a few days but it can take up to a month for symptoms of SAD to decline. When is best to receive light therapy has not been fully investigated. However, some sufferers of SAD who wake up very early may find it more effective to receive light therapy for 1-2 hours in the evening leaving at least one hour before they go to sleep.
Light therapy is a safe therapy but results should be discussed with a doctor or therapist. Some side effects of light therapy include: nausea, sweating, agitation and headaches. However, these side effects can be decreased by spending less time under light therapy. Those with sensitive eyes and skin should not undergo light therapy. Always consult your doctor before undergoing light therapy.