How do you use light therapy for seasonal affective disorder

I’ve got a light therapy box that I have used in the past to change my sleep schedule. In order to do that properly you have to use the light in a certain way (you can’t shine it directly into your eyes, it has to be in the peripheral), at a certain time (about 2 hrs before your natural wake up time) for a certain time period.

I want to try using it for SAD, but I cannot find info on when/how often to use it for that. Using light therapy at the wrong time of day can alter your sleep schedule.

Does anyone know?

Are you actually supposed to use it that long before waking up? If it’s before you wake it’s not really shining in your eyes. Plus, I don’t think there’s any reason you can’t look directly at theses sorts of lights, other than the fact that you’ll be too dazzled by bright light to, say, read.

I had a gigantic fluorescent light box on my bedstand that I put on a timer so that it would turn on ~15 minutes before my alarm. It was effective for waking me up, but I never got the entire dose because I that required laying in bed staring at the ceiling for half an hour. Now I have a much smaller blue light that I put on my desk in front of my computer, and I use it every morning while I read the SDMB. I also occasionally use it in the late afternoon. I don’t think it will really screw up your sleep schedule unless you use it late in the evening. After all, during the summer you’d be outside in direct sunlight at 7 pm. I also have an alarm clock with a “sunrise simulator”. It’s a much more pleasant way to wake up than a normal alarm, though it’s nowhere near bright enough to have a therapeutic effect on its own.

My understanding was if you want to set your circadian rhythm back you have to use the light about 2 hours before your natural wake up time. Using it either before or after that window could make your sleep problems worse.

So if you naturally wake up at 10am, but have to get up at 630 for work and you want to start naturally waking up earlier, then use it at 8am to push your sleep cycle back.

My mistake, I didn’t read the first sentence of your op. :smack:

Anyhow… from what I understand about re-setting the circadian rhythm, you’re correct that you want exposure to light before you wake up in your case. But there shouldn’t be any problem with subsequent uses later in the day. So you can put it by your bed on a timer to wake you up, and then use it a little later in the morning to get the full effect.

I’ve got a light, and suffer depression as well as SAD specifically.

I also am naturally a night-owl.

I’m personally careful to not use my light after about 8am, partly because that’s when I get up, and partly because I live in horror that I’ll push my natural sleep schedule any later.

I also don’t run the light more than 45 minutes before I get up - I’m not what could even charitably be called awake, but I keep the snooze on the alarm running for that 45 minutes, and I am aware that the light is on.

I got it for the first time this fall, and it is AMAZING! I am into February without wanting to slit my wrists, and without being on meds.

From what I know, as long as you aren’t truly desperately depressed, it’s better to run it in the morning only, because the light in the evening throws you off and triggers your brain to want to be awake - and since most of us with depression don’t need to lie awake at night unable to fall asleep…

If you’ve been using it to wake up for a while, you’re probably used to the amount of light that you’re getting, and maybe you could use it later in the morning while you’re at your desk?

The restrictions on the intensity and peripheral location are the same for SAD use as for mucking up your circadian rhythms - it’s less a set of precautions for specific use for circadian needs and more a set of precautions to make sure you don’t burn your eyes out on the blue spectrum light it gives off.

Good luck!

Thanks Lasciel I bought mine several years ago and haven’t used it since. My old job changed my schedule (I started going in at 10am instead of 6, so I didn’t have to wake up early) and my current job has flex time. So I haven’t used mine in a while, and am trying to figure out how to do it for SAD w/o screwing up my sleep schedule.

Are you using yours while you are asleep? How does that work?

My husband has to be at work much earlier than I do, so he turns it on when he gets up, I ‘snooze’ for another 45 minutes, and then I get up myself. :smiley: So, short version, I cheat. :wink:

When I was in college, I used a full-spectrum ‘grow lamp’ for plants, and I set it up near my couch, woke up a bit early (which was hell), turned it on, and slumped on the couch for half-an-hour or so. That never worked as well as this blue light tho - don’t know if I’m happier now in general, or if the blue light works better.

Today, you don’t need an expensive light therapy thing. It’s easy now to find 4’ fluorescent tubes that put out the same assortment of colors as real sunlight, at your local home improvement store, and you can put 4 of them in a pair of cheapo shop lights. I went a little fancier, with a 4-tube ceiling fixture, but the tubes are same.

I get up about half an hour before sunrise, and turn on the light. I repeat it on the other end, turning it on at sunset. In essence, I’m fooling my primitive brain parts into thinking it’s spring.

Do they give out UV? That should be filtered out. Also, domestic-use ‘daylight’ tubes usually aren’t suitable for treating SAD.

No, they don’t emit UV in any significant amount. The light therapy gear of a few years ago included UV, to purely duplicate sunlight, and that’s rather hazardous, especially for the eyes. The “daylight” tubes of a few years ago have changed, too.

I use a Phillips alarm clock light that simulates sunrise. It begins to show light 30 minutes before my alarm radio begins. I can set the brightness level, a feature I really appreciate. There are some awkward things about it, such as it doesn’t have a built-in handle to move it around but overall, I really do find it helps me.

The light can also be set to simulate sunset but I don’t use it that way. I find having it on and fading in the evening just keeps me awake that much longer when going to bed.