Light therapy is a form of treatment – often used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – that is quickly becoming a popular and alternative form of therapy for mental health disorders, and sleeping ailments. From easily available wellness lamps on e-commerce websites like Amazon, to health bloggers suggesting it in place of allopathic treatment, light therapy is making waves. But how exactly does it work, and what is the logic behind it?
Light therapy involves a specific amount of intense exposure to light (under controlled conditions). The most common form of administering it is through fluorescent bulbs placed behind some kind of screen that diffuses the light. The person receiving the treatment has to sit in close proximity to the light. It is not recommended to stare directly at the light because most fluorescent bulbs and LEDs used in these lights contain a high level of blue light that can penetrate through protective layers and can be harmful to your eyes. Rather, the person engages in normal, day-to-day, stress-free activities (such as reading, writing, eating meals) for the duration of the exposure (which can range anywhere from 10-15 minutes, upto 3 hours).
The “dose” of the therapy is dependent on the condition, and decides a number of factors: how high the intensity of the light is, how long the exposure occurs for, how often therapy is done, and even the time of day when the treatment is administered.
Light therapy is used in the treatment of several conditions, such as jetlag, sleep disorders, altering circadian rhythms, and dementia. However, it is most commonly used to treat depression – especially seasonal affective depression. Since our eyes process light differently during different times of day, and different seasons expose us to different amounts of natural light, the brain chemical reactions can adjust depending on the time of year. Exposure to light therapy – which is essentially used as a substitute for the abundance of natural light during spring and summer – can cause this adjustment to be countered.
Benefits of light therapy include improved vision clarity, mental awareness, vitamin D synthesis, mood, and scholastic performance.
Therapy that is focused on natural environments is highly supportive of this form of therapy, since it mimics sunlight without introduction of allopathic medication. Although light therapy has had minimal side effects and is highly encouraged as a safe form of treatment, it is not an end-all form of therapy. The most effective use of light therapy is under correct guidance, and in combination with other forms of treatment for health disorders (whether seasonal or chronic).
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