Advice sought on light therapy lamps

So, winter is coming which can mean sleep troubles, less energy and lowered mood. The grey sky in the last few days here seems to have already affected me a little. My physician recommended getting a light therapy lamp and I’ll give it a try.

Do you have experiences, warnings, info, tips to contribute?

Mine is awesome.

  1. use it in the morning, not at night, at least at first, and see if that works. 15 to 30 minutes, as early as you can manage and be at least partially coherent about (I turn mine on in the bathroom while I’m waking up in the shower, for instance). Nighttime use screws with a lot of people’s sleep cycles, but they still recommend it if you’re really bad off and the morning use doesn’t seem to impact your mood. Try for about a solid week-10 days with mornings only, and if you don’t feel noticeably better, do the same amount of time again at around sunset, whenever that is for where and when in the year you are.

  2. don’t look directly at the actual light box - veeeery bad for the eyeballs.

  3. it will help, but it won’t cure, at least it hasn’t for me. It keeps me sane from the middle of September to about the middle of December, and then again starting in about mid-February. Between Dec 15 and Feb 15 are some damn dark times, and it doesn’t matter how long I bake under that light, it’s not enough. But - it’s better than being like that from September 15 through April 15!

  4. you don’t have to buy one of the hugely expensive light therapy boxes, just make sure that you’re getting either blue light or full-spectrum light, and that your lux are high enough. You want at least ten grand. If you get a prescription from your GP you MIGHT convince your insurance to pay for it, but it’s not really likely. Get a cheap one in that case - better something than nothing at all.

  5. if you’re desperate, tanning beds helped me. Official people claim they don’t work, but the heat and the light were better than nothing for me, and having a bi-weekly early-morning short tanning session was how I made it through the winter before I knew about actual light therapy. Wear sunscreen or talk to the tanning bed place about wearing clothes into the bed, and make it quick. You’re balancing mental health with physical health at this point, but sometimes that’s what has to happen.

Good luck, and I hope it helps you!

How are the effects of blue light different from white light?

Are there benefits to using several daily sessions of 15-30 minutes instead of 1 per day?

How many hours before bedtime can someone use it without much risk of it negatively affecting the ability to sleep? Yes, I know this varies but any data points can contribute to having a ballpark idea.

There’s a pretty solid body of research that shows that blue light activates the cells in your retina that control circadian rhythms (these are the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, not the rods and cones that you use for vision.) More importantly, there’s a handful of small studies that show blue light (at a couple thousand lux?) is as effective as 10,000 lux broad-spectrum white light at alleviating symptoms of seasonal depression.

I have a blue LED from Philips. The main advantage is that it’s small enough to sit on my desk, where I can use it while drinking coffee and browsing the internet first thing in the morning.

Occasionally, in the depths of winter I’ll also use it for 15-30 min in the early evening. I figure that if direct sunlight at 8 PM doesn’t screw up my sleep schedule in the summer, than 30 minutes of much dimmer blue light at 6 or 7 PM in the winter can’t hurt either. I haven’t noticed any problems sleeping after using the light in the evening.

I’m pretty sure MOAR LIGHT is always better, until a few hours before bed time. My mood and energy improves whenever I can get out in the sun during the day.

Another thing that helps me is a set of Philips Hue lights in the bedroom, which I use as a dawn simulator. I went a little nuts with these, and am using a combination of 3 (silly and expensive) color-changing lights, as well as a pair of GE Link PAR38 flood lights that are pointed straight at my pillow. With this setup, the light gradually increases from a few lux of warm orange light, to several thousand lux of bright white light. I find myself spontaneously waking up about halfway through my artificial dawn.

Finally, I also take care to avoid bright blue light in the evening. On my computers I have a program called Flux, which gradually shifts between BRIGHT DAYLIGHT WHITE during the day to a warm, incandescent white at night. I keep rooms more dimly lit too, using a couple 40-60w table lamps instead of the 3-bulb ceiling light fixtures.

I used to have a ton of insomnia, but now between all these measure I’m getting a very regular and restful 7 hours of sleep per night.

When we lived in Maine I bought one, and then we got moved south about a month later. I used it maybe twice. If you want to PM me your address I’ll be happy to mail it to you.

Was it for a job as a hotel’s winter caretaker?

It was probably a good idea to get a light box.

Would putting a blue transparent film of some sort in front of a white light box provide much the same advantages as a blue light box?
Is it preferable that the light be out of my field of view or off the side within my field of view?

Not really. The only disadvantage of white light is the size and power necessary to provide enough light. Extra light in other part of the spectrum doesn’t hurt anything.

Blue lights are just a lot more compact. Mine is about 5" x 5" x 1". In comparison, the white fluorescent light I used previously had a big 18" x 8" reflector, with a big chunky base. You can’t put that in front of a desktop monitor…

Even if you get a smaller blue-light box, it’s still throwing out around 2,000 lux at least. The big full-spectrum suckers are easily 5 times that amount of light. That’s - a lot of light in a concentrated area. Your retinas will thank you if it’s out of view, but I’ve caught glimpses of my blue box here and there and don’t seem to have damaged anything permanently. You’ll see an overexposed after-image for a few minutes tho, so you know it’s not great for the eyes.