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How to Build An Effective Light Therapy Schedule For Best Results

DTC Thrasio

- Circadian Optics Brand Team

Light therapy is a natural way to decrease the symptoms of Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). Using the correct lighting, like the lights at Circadian Optics, will help improve your mood and alleviate the depression that overcomes you at the beginning of fall and winter. However, the schedule must be precise and consistent. Continue reading to find out more about how to create the best light therapy schedule!

Note that this information does not replace proper medical advice. You should always verify the facts with your own physician. These instructions should only be used in combination with the supervision of a competent health professional.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

Days get shorter and the light from the sun grows dimmer as fall and winter storms dominate the sky. Fall and winter have more sunless days than spring and fall, causing your energy to dip, and your mood matches the gloom outside.

The Mayo Clinic states that SAD is a type of depression that relates to the season's changes. It usually starts at the same time each year and lifts when spring or summer comes. Rarely, some cases can be opposite, with moods dipping in the spring and rising in the fall.

There is no current cure for this type of depression. Treatment includes phototherapy or light therapy, psychotherapy, and medications. Keep track of your mood throughout the year to determine if it's possible that you may need treatment for SAD.

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling listless, depressed, or down much of the day, virtually every day
  • Losing interest in activities you previously loved
  • Feeling lethargic and low on energy
  • Cravings for carbohydrates, overeating and weight gain are all symptoms of sleep deprivation.
  • Having a hard time staying focused
  • Hopelessness, worthlessness, or guiltiness

What is bright light therapy? 

Bright light therapy is used to gradually normalize sleeping patterns, according to Stamford Health Care. Timing is critical for treatment. The light must be delivered to the retina as soon as possible after spontaneous awakening. Some people have had success with lights that turn on just before waking.

The light source could be artificial, like a 10,000-lux full spectrum lamp, or natural, like outdoor light when available. Longer light exposures (30-90 minutes) are better. The ideal timing of light exposure depends on the person's circadian clock.

The specialist gradually shifts the patient's sleep period. After achieving the desired sleep schedule, patients should keep a fixed rise time (even on weekends and vacations) and use morning light exposure most mornings, though the duration can be reduced. Experts often advise using dim lights at night and bright lights in the morning to advance the sleep schedule. Some patients receive maintenance treatments indefinitely, while others receive only 15 minutes per day. Others may use the lamp every other or third week.

When to use a light therapy lamp

In conjunction with treatment from a medical professional, you should begin using light therapy when the beginning of Fall starts, or when your mood dips yearly. The best results are obtained from using light therapy shortly after waking in the morning. Therapy should be continued daily until the seasons change or the time when you can naturally obtain enough sunlight.

Your light therapy schedule should be slotted for the first 30 minutes of your day, while you are reading, eating, or even applying your makeup. The light should be positioned at an angle and at least 14-16 inches from your face. Never stare directly into the light, but ensure your eyes are open during the treatment.

How much time should you allot to your light therapy schedule daily?

The answer to the timing depends solely on the light and your toleration of the therapy. Therapeutic levels of light that have proven most beneficial equal to about 5,000 lux hours per day. For a fixture that has a bulb of 10,000 lux rating, that would equal half an hour under the light.

Lightboxes with lower lux ratings take longer to respond. For 5,000 lux light boxes, 45-60 minutes daily exposure is required, whereas 2,500 lux light boxes need 1-2 hours.  If symptoms persist after 10-14 days, try spending up to 60 minutes each day in front of lights, either morning or evening.

Optimal light therapy schedule

Finding the time to incorporate light therapy into your already busy schedule may seem hard, but it isn't really. The best light therapy sessions are built around your already existing schedule. For example, you get up at 6 AM, wake the kids and get ready for the day. Most of the time you're out the door by seven. During the time you are getting ready, you could be sitting by a light therapy light (bedside, vanity, kitchen table).

Each person will be different and create their own tips and tricks to get in the time necessary to reduce their symptoms. Even having several lights to sit by may be beneficial when moving around in the morning, provided you use one at a time.

The main key to optimizing your light therapy schedule is creating a consistent routine. Master your bedtime routine and wake at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays. Try to fit in your treatment before 8 am each morning.


Using a lightbox for your light therapy schedule can help assist you in getting the proper treatment for the correct amount of time. Circadian Optics has the right lamp to fit your style and meet your needs. Let them help you to improve your mood and alleviate your SAD symptoms with brilliant and beautiful lamps. Remember to create the best light therapy schedule for your unique needs and consult your physician about dosages. Let the light lift your spirits and chase away the winter depression!