How Bright Light Therapy Works:
Scientists believe that bright light therapy works on several different levels, producing a combined beneficial effect. When used at an appropriate morning hour (or in rare cases, evening hour), it corrects the misalignment of the internal body clock, known as the circadian rhythm, with external night and day. Bright light therapy, acting on the body’s own response to light, may also stimulate the brain's production of the neurochemicals responsible for positive moods. This may explain why people not getting the light they require feel lethargic, less motivated and experience the blues.
Although judicious exposure to sunlight - when available - can act like bright light therapy, this is often not practical for most people with contemporary lifestyles and careers. The key is to reset or maintain the schedule of the internal biological clock through timed bright light therapy sessions. These sessions are scheduled at defined times to maintain the target sunrise or wake time for the user during the fall and winter.
Researchers use bright light therapy systems to simulate the effects of daylight. Usually, bright light therapy sessions of just 20-30 minutes are adequate to reset or maintain the body’s circadian rhythm. For most people, optimum bright light therapy response is achieved with sessions conducted the early in the morning, shortly after waking.
Over the course of research studies, involving thousands of people, three key facts emerged on bright light therapy:
- Debilitating, full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be reversed within days of appropriately implemented bright light therapy treatment – a positive result when compared to medication options.
- People with milder winter doldrums - who can cope, but still suffer - respond just as well to bright light therapy as those with major mood disorders.
- People feeling down in the dumps at other times of year or even with continuous, chronic mood disorders, may also respond favorably to bright light therapy.
Bright light therapy, when considered in consultation with your physician, may be an appropriate option for many disorders before recourse to medication.