light therapy benefits

How to Use Light Therapy for Anxiety?

DTC Thrasio

Do you often have a bad mood? Are you having trouble sleeping or worrying a lot lately? You might be having anxiety, depression, or related ailments. Light therapy is often recommended by therapists and has been found helpful to relieve crippling anxiety, depression, and other related problems. 

LED light therapy benefits range from regulating a sleeping pattern, fighting exhaustion, elevating mood, and improving focus. During the therapy, you sit or rest near a light source, for example- a Light Therapy Lamp, that mimics natural daylight.

Do you know that the deficiency of daylight during the winter season upsets our circadian pattern and may also lead to seasonal affective disorder? Researchers predict that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has something to do with circadian rhythms hindered by shorter and darker days. And light therapy is an ideal solution to help beat the winter blues and increase Serotonin levels. 

What is Light Therapy? 

Some cultures in ancient Egypt and ancient Greece valued using light as a cure. The Native Americans believed the sun to be a source of spiritual health and to treat mellow moods. Ayurveda discusses using light therapy in combination with morning meditation and herbal medicine.

Light therapy, also acknowledged as phototherapy is a treatment in which a person is exposed to an artificial light source. The most common light therapy uses a special type of light, emitting from a LED light box. This is way brighter in Lumen capacity for effective light therapy than any light fixture in your home. 

During light therapy sessions, you sit or rest near a light source. For it to be effective, light rays should contact your eyes indirectly. Please note that one shouldn’t stare at the light box. While your eyes should always remain open, you don't need to look directly at it, because the brightness can damage your eyes. You can't get the same result merely by exposure to the light. 

Light therapy is generally advised for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day, depending on the intensity of the light used and a person’s previous experience. Light therapy is effective for treating not only SAD, non-seasonal depression, sleep disorders, adjusting to a night shift, but also dementia or even jet lag. 

How does light therapy help with anxiety?

“If people are exposed to light in the morning that mimics the wavelengths of daylight, they become better at coping with anxiety-provoking experiences,” says Brenda McMahon, MD, Neurobiology Research Unit, Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark.

In general terms, light improves the communication between the regions of the brain that handle emotions such as stress and anxiety. That’s why some people who don’t get enough sunlight are less driven and have a lack of energy.

Studies about light therapy suggest that chasing away the blues away as easy as turning on a lamp. The symptoms of anxiety and depression worsen in absence of light because it causes an imbalance in the brain. 

Light therapy or phototherapy provides the same effects as sunlight and relies on light to help balance hormones to eventually support a healthier mind and body. Exposure to light is directly linked to vitamin D production which has been known to regulate moods. 

In some cases, it’s been found that light therapy decreases symptoms of anxiety and provides the same effects as an anti-anxiety medication. Light therapy can treat other conditions including sleep disorders, bipolar disorders and eating disorders. 

How does light therapy increase Serotonin?

Scientists believe if someone is exposed to light during the morning, it can adjust any misalignments in the internal body clock and work as a natural mood booster. Relying upon the body’s natural response to it, light therapy initiates the brain to release certain neurochemicals linked with Serotonin to elevate mood. 

Most people simply don’t have the time to get natural daylight. Their best bet is a light box or a LED desk lamp to reset and maintain the natural circadian rhythm. Moreover, it can lessen the necessity of pills that could be potentially addictive. You can consult your doctor for its effectiveness if you are having high functioning anxiety. Be sure to follow your GP’s treatment plan for anxiety, recommendations, and directions.

When and how to start light therapy for anxiety?

Generally, most people with SAD or other related ailments begin the light therapy in the early fall and it continues until spring. If someone has fall or winter depression, then they also notice symptoms during cloudy weather throughout the year. You can always consult with your doctor to adjust the treatment depending on the duration of symptoms. If you want to try light therapy for non-seasonal depression or another condition, try combining it with other anxiety management techniques.

How to use a light therapy lamp? 

It’s simple and requires some technical expertise. Set up the light box or LED sun lamp on a desk in your office or on the floor of the desired room. Spend the required time next to it while reading, browsing, watching TV, talking on the phone on simply eating. Make sure, you adhere to the therapy schedule and don’t over-expose yourself. 

What are the tips for effective light therapy for anxiety?

light therapy for anxiety

Here are some recommendations for successful Led light therapy at home involving a combination of intensity, duration, and timing.

Intensity: The intensity of the light box is recorded in Lux which is a measure of the amount of light generated from the source. This is mentioned by the manufacturer on the label or packaging box. It’s advised to follow the doctor’s recommendation and directions for a certain ailment. For example - the standard suggestion for SAD light therapy is to use a 10,000-lux light source at around 24 inches from your face. 

Duration: The thumb rule is to stick to duration and not overdo it. A higher-intensity box, with a 10,000-lux capacity, is recommended for daily sessions of about 30 minutes. However, a lower-intensity light box, with a 2,500-lux capacity, is beneficial for lengthier therapy sessions. You can always start at the lowest duration and gradually increase over weeks.

Timing: It’s been noticed that light therapy is most effective during the daytime especially early mornings right after you wake up. You can always consult your doctor to determine the right time as per your schedule. 

How to get the most out of a light box?

Please notice that light therapy isn't effective for everyone. Nonetheless, you can take certain steps to get the most out of it. Here are the basic tips for a perfect therapy session.

Choose the right light box: Research, research, and research! And talk to your doctor before buying a light therapy box. Circadian Optics has a diverse range of products to choose from as per the disorder. You must be sure that your light box is safe, has the required brightness, and is convenient to use.

Have a daily routine: If you want to maintain improvements over time then it’s important to stick to a routine. Be consistent and find a way to fit light therapy into your everyday schedule.

Take other treatments as well: Don’t rely only on light therapy and mix it up with other treatments for better results. In case, you don’t notice any improvement with light therapy, you may require additional treatment. Consult with your doctor about antidepressants or psychotherapy.

Light Therapy Side Effects

Light therapy is usually considered safe. If side effects occur, they're mostly mild and go away on their own within a few days. You may notice eyestrain, headache, nausea, irritability, hyperactivity, or agitation. 

You may be able to manage side effects by reducing treatment duration, moving away from the light box, or taking breaks in between the sessions, or simply changing the session time. Talk to a GP for advice if side effects continue after few days. 

Light therapy probably won't permanently treat the seasonal affective disorder or other conditions. However, it may relieve related symptoms and help you feel better. Be patient. Light therapy can improve symptoms within just a few days, though, in some cases it can take two or more weeks.

Contributing Writer: Himani Sangwan