Light therapy for S.A.D.

Is anyone here using a light box to help with seasonal (or other) depression?

I’m looking into it because my depression worsens significantly when the daylight hours start shrinking. I do try to get some natural light in the mornings when I can, but it’s hard to stand outside in the sun when it’s cold and windy.

What should I be looking for in a light box? There are so many different kinds and they’re all fairly pricey, and I really don’t know what makes one better than another, or more effective. Blue light? LEDs? Natural spectrum? How many “lux”? I’ve seen some built into visors - so it’s just the eyes that need to see the light, and it’s not about your skin getting sunlight?

Any anecdotes and stories are very welcome!

I just bought the cheapest light I could find on Amazon, so I’m not going to have the best advice, but I do use one. It’s my understanding that 10,000 lux is what’s recommended for treating SAD. The LED lights are smaller, but I would suggest looking at one in person first-- something about them really puts me off. I have a fluorescent lamp that is pretty blue. While I hear that it’s the blue wavelengths you need, I wish I had something warmer and cheerier.

I found mine for $122, and I hear that’s an absolute steal. If it works, though, the price is really worth it. Of course, I live in Alaska. I’ll take any light I can get.

Google ads has this at the bottom of this thread:

I tried a light box, it’s a Day Light from Uplift Technologies Inc. I don’t remember the specs you’re supposed to look for, but when I did the research a few years ago, the Day Light met the requirements.

My insurance covered the purchase, except for $20 that I had to pay.

The light box didn’t work for me, however. It was perhaps slightly pleasant during the dim, short days of winter, but my mood was not improved by it. I’m told that people with SAD respond very well to them, but I guess that’s not necessarily the case for other types of depression.

My wife just got a new one, a Philips Go light. Its quite a bit brighter than her older one, a litebox. Both are leds. Both of us notice when she doesnt use it so yes we would say it works. She has used one for a number of years and wouldnt be without it. She has been diagnosed with SADS by a doc.

I don’t have a light box (or SAD), but I have an awful time waking up in winter. I just can’t wake up unless it’s light, so I got a timed sunrise lamp with a full-spectrum bulb. It gradually brightens over about half an hour. I place it so that it shines right on my face, and it works great–I feel awake at 6.30 instead of dragging my carcass out of bed at 8. I would suggest one of these in addition to a light box.

Look for a blue one, the blue wavelength near 460nm is the one that controls circadian rhythm. I paid about $90 on ebay for mine, but had to shop around to find one that price.

Also get your vitamin D levels checked, and if they are low start supplementing. Low vitamin D levels in winter due to less sunlight also contribute to depression.

I cheaped out, I use my aerogarden as a light source. It pops on at 5 am when I wake up, and turns off when I go to bed. And i get killer herbs out of it. My basil would take over the world if I didn’t keep chopping the top 6 inches off every week!

It’s my understanding that light that comes through a window is about as effective. To get the right effect, you have to stand or sit right by the window, facing the general direction of the sun with your eyes open, but without of course staring directly at the sun.

Exercise is another important tool against depression.

Considering where you live, this may not be helping at all anyway. Another write up of that study said we don’t produce any vitamin D natually this far north from November-early March. My mom suffered severe foot pain over the past two winters, and this spring they finally figured out that the cause was severe vitamin D deficiency which was resolved by giving her massive doses of it, so it’s not just depression that is caused by a lack of vitamin D.

Those of us in the north should probably all take a supliment during the winter.

+1 Yep pretty much all of canada. There has been plenty of talk about it in the last few years and even my doc is saying to take supplements. He said 2000mg a day fwiw

Be sure to sit close enough to the light. The effective range is surprisingly short.

What’s a light box?

I use a Daylight lamp I bought for hobby purposes and which turned out to be great for my hybernation (it does not help with sugar crashes, which are a completely different animal, but does help with general sleepiness and meh-ness).
Wouldn’t one of the advantages of such a lamp be that it helps keep the vit.D coming as long as you’re also having your tomatoes?

I have a small LED one, and it seems to be a like a cup of coffee to me. The effect is not dramatic, but it seems to give me a little lift.

Wouldn’t a regular lamp with an LED light or even a regular bulb be just as effective? When I’m at home I turn the lamp and th e overhead light on during the day because I don’t get enough sun in my room.

The recommended light range for SAD therapy is a minimum of 10,000 lux. Regular household lighting doesn’t reach this level.

Got a blue theraputic light last year. I waited til mid-winter, where by that time my effective “awake” time was about 4 hours a day. I dragged around for another 4 or 6 hours, and slept for enormous amounts of time.

In less than a week of use I got several more hours of effective awake time. The difference was really amazing.

I haven’t noticed a difference in mood, other than not feeling sluggish and unfocused all the time from being so tired. SAD pretty much just mangles my sleep patterns rather than affecting my mood.

The research I did on light boxes came mostly from the Mayo Clinic:

This checklist was great (the meat is on page 2):

Unfortunately, the other source I found re-arranged their website so I can no longer find the medical study overviews they used to have. But the gist was:

Full-spectrum lightboxes (white light) need to be at a minimum 10,000 lux in intensity to be considered theraputic. This is especially important if you plan to file a claim with your medical insurance.

Blue spectrum light (as long as it’s specifically designed for SAD symptoms) is more effective at lower intensities. You do not need the full 10K lux if you have a theraputic blue light.

Light therapy is affective through the eyes, not the skin. You need your eyes open to gain the most benefit (although I suppose light leak through your eyelids might help a little).

The receptors that respond to the theraputic blue wavelengths are on the periphery of your vision, so the light should be at a slight angle to your face and you shouldn’t look directly at it, although it should be within your field of view.

Here’s a couple executive summaries of the blue light studies, if you can wade through the included sales pitch:

I got mine from – which was also the place that used to have an entire section of their website devoted to the medical studies, but no longer, which annoys me. In any case, I got the GoLite Blu, and I like it a lot. Still using it this year, though I’m having more issues with delayed Circadian rhythms this year, too. I can’t imagine how rough it would be if I weren’t using the light.

It cost just shy of $300, and my health insurance company has finally admitted that they cover high-intensity light boxes, but it’s a year later and they still insist that I have a UV dermatology light and are refusing to pay (don’t ask me where they got the idea that it’s a UV light, it’s never been on any of the paperwork I submitted, and suspect they are just making shit up to avoid paying the claim… just to let you know what you might be in for).

This has a comparison chart:

Basically 10,000 lux is about 100 times brighter than your living room, and 20 times brighter than standard office lighting.

Missed the edit…

Also, the key with the high-intensity white light boxes is that they need to also be full-spectrum – the light needs to exactly mimic daylight. Normal fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs don’t do that.