SAD therapy side effects?
November 1, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone tried light therapy? I started using a SAD light therapy light and am experiencing some weird side effects...

Male, 25, currently on no meds, slight anxiety, light exercise 2 times a week.

I recently bought a small, portable SAD light to help my sleeping patterns/prevent me from being so tired in the morning/prevent potential winter blues, and because generally I really do see no sunlight every day (wake up when dark--->car--->office--->--->car--->gym/home when it's dark) and it just FEELS unhealthy not getting actual light.

I set it on my desk yesterday morning and this morning for a half an hour immediately after I woke up and let it just hit my face from an angle while I browsed email/internet. It was REALLY bright and sort of felt like tingly pins and needles on the sides of my eyeballs, which sort of radiated into this strange lightheaded/faint kind of feeling.

I came to work and definitely haven't been tired all day, or hit "the 3pm slump", but I've still been feeling really strange. I still have this sort of light, disconcerting feeling stemming from my eyes that I can't put my finger on. It's sort of this fuzzy, foggy feeling like I'm not really "there". Like parts of my brain are just television static.

Also, as strange as this sounds my libido feels so low that I notice it, like if there's an opposite of feeling horny than I feel that in my gut, like there's this empty space in me where all the hornyness once was (I'm usually excited to go home and see my gf).

I also experience waves of nausea.

Has anyone tried light therapy and experienced these symptoms? Also, am I doing it right? Should I be closing my eyes, or keeping the light further from my face? How does it work for you?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's only been one day. It could be possible your body is just on an "off" day and it has nothing to do with the light therapy.
posted by schroedinger at 9:07 AM on November 1, 2011

I suffer from migraines which are triggered by sun glare and what you are describing sounds somewhat like a migraine. It is possible that you are having a migraine - slightly weird visuals plus nausea suggest something of that sort.

You should be careful about UV light and your eyes - UV light can damage your eyes quite badly.

Feel better soon.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:11 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hm. I have used light therapy devices for the past few years, and have never experienced anything like what you're describing. I have noticed that for the first few days of therapy, I am often a little...buzzy. I feel a bit agitated immediately after my light session, and perhaps a bit fizzy all day. This evens out after a few days, and is not like what you describe -- although it's possible you're just experiencing/interpreting the sensations of that somewhat odd buzziness a bit differently.

Most light device makers do recommend that you slowly ramp up to 20-30 minutes in the morning, and IF the light is connected to the odd sensations you're experiencing, you may want to begin with more like 5-10 minutes daily to start. It sounds like you're using the light as you should be (not directly looking at it, about a foot or so away), and that's the only thing I might suggest you change.
posted by tigerbelly at 9:31 AM on November 1, 2011

Half an hour right off the bat might be too much, too soon. I've been using a light box for over a decade, yet still start every year with 5 or ten minutes and ramp it up about 2- 5 minutes per day. Anecdotally, it really pays off, mood-wise.
posted by bunji at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2011

Oh! I meant to add that my very first light box session went way too long, with similarly nauseating results. I can't address any of the other stuff you describe (it was a long time ago) but definitely recall the queasy feeling. It has not reoccurred after switching to a more gradual introduction.
posted by bunji at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2011

I just started again two days ago and it has made me feel a little manic- like when you are wide awake but operating on no sleep. I started with 30 min right away, maybe that's my problem too. Manic beats depressed and tired though- I really think they work and that the positives outweigh the negatives.
posted by bquarters at 9:43 AM on November 1, 2011

Ditto the above:

I've used light boxes and found them useful but without those side effects.

I've had migraines and they sounds similar enough I'd be up for agreeing with the above. Pretty much everything you've heard about migraines is optional. I don't get the jagged lines, for example.

For what it's worth, the worst thing for triggering migraines (for me) is a fluorescent tube on the edge of my vision. It might be worth moving the box round in front of you while you eat your breakfast instead of to one side while you work.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2011

nthing working up to it.

Start with 5 minutes and if you begin to feel queasy, shut it off. Also first thing in the morning only, and never look directly at the light.
posted by eggman at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2011

I agree. More than 15 minutes can make me kind of wired.
posted by bink at 11:59 AM on November 1, 2011

You should be careful about UV light and your eyes - UV light can damage your eyes quite badly.

Lightboxes for SAD therapy are different than light therapy for skin conditions or other treatments. Lights that are designed specifically for SAD therapy have filters to remove most UV rays.

SAD lights might not work for everyone, and I have to have it in front of my face (not to one side) so that it doesn't cause a migraine, but UV rays are not one of the concerns.
posted by barnone at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2011

side note to the side effects.....

There is evidence that light therapy is more (only) viable when the light comes from above, not from straight ahead, from the side or from below.

also, re UV Safety issues.....
Most modern SAD devices run LEDs at 465nm which is above the UV spectrum..
posted by anthroprose at 9:44 AM on November 6, 2011

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