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Article

Bright Light Therapy and Mental Health Treatment

Monday, February 7th 2022 10:00am 5 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Late fall and winter bring us the shortest days of the year. Our opportunities for exposure to sunlight, especially in regions with inclement weather, become limited. However, scientists have known for many decades that sunlight is beneficial to our health.

As the nights become longer, you may want to look into the benefits of bright light therapy (BLT). In helping to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm, BLT offers improvement in a variety of mental health conditions, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, dementia, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What is bright light therapy?

Bright light therapy, also called light exposure therapy, light therapy, circadian light therapy, and phototherapy, has been the first option of treatment for SAD for several decades.

In a bright light therapy session, you sit in front of a special light box that is set approximately 18 to 24 inches away from your face. You are exposed to the light for a specific period each day, typically in the morning at home. The frequency and duration of the therapy is determined by your doctor or other mental health professional.

The light is very similar to natural sunlight but without harmful UV rays. A single session may last from 20 to 40 minutes, typically at an intensity of 10,000 lux. The signals that the light sends to your brain triggers certain brain chemicals, which can improve your circadian rhythm and boost your mood. Studies show that side effects are mild in some cases (headache, nausea, jumpiness).

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