When will light therapy start working for my depression?
October 15, 2012 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Light therapy for depression that gets worse in the winter: when does it start working? Any tips?

I'm following the instructions that came with my Day-Light Sky. When does it start working? Or how do I know if it's not working for me?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The people I know for whom light therapy is useful get a noticeable boost the same day, and more gradual improvement for maybe a week or two.
posted by hattifattener at 9:19 PM on October 15, 2012

sometimes in cases of severe depression, the lights do not work, and going outside, while difficult, works better.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:32 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not just the severity of the depression— not all depression is SAD.
posted by hattifattener at 9:57 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have SAD and I didn't notice any difference with the light therapy, unfortunately. I mean, the light was nice and all, but overall nothing changed.

Taking a bunch of 5-HTP helped quite a bit, and going to Hawaii for 4 days helped even more.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:43 PM on October 15, 2012

I started to feel better within a couple of days but I do tend to respond quickly to treatments of any kind. Perhaps you need to sit in front of the light for longer if it isn't working? You could also look into getting a dawn simulator and getting a blood test to check for Vitamin D levels as I found that helped me.
posted by EatMyHat at 2:22 AM on October 16, 2012

I put 16 1/2" x 4' fluorescent bulbs onto a 4' square panel. I mixed up different color-balanced bulbs with slightly different temperatures. I have a diffusion panel in front of that. It is mounted on the ceiling like a skylight. When I was building it, people thought it was overkill.

There are four switches to operate it in banks. Everyone prefers when all four are on. Even then, it does not raise to the level of daylight coming in the window.

It does have a good result, which can be experienced when it is turned off, and the room becomes more... depressing. I can't believe that these little desktop lights could have a real effect.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2012

You need to make sure you have a lightbox with 10,000 lux or it may just make you irritable. Also the angle of the light should come from above, not directly at you.

In the dark days of winter, I need about 2 hours of light therapy every day. This is way way above the recommended amount. I also tend to use it in the afternoons, not in the mornings, in part because I find it makes me less hyped up then. I start using mine in August. For me light therapy is a much better preventative measure than any kind of solution after depression has set in so starting it early is key.

Also realize that light therapy is not very profitable, so there haven't been a lot of great studies done about how to make it effective since no one wants to fund them. Try increasing the amount of time under the light, adding vitamin D, and getting fresh air/exercise, etc. but notice what works and what doesn't for you and conform your use accordingly. If you need two hours, there's no real reason you can't use it for that long as long as you don't have manic tendencies and are careful and watchful with yourself (i.e. beware of excessive online shopping sprees under the lightbox).
posted by luckdragon at 4:29 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the more prominent scientists who studies bright light therapy, Michael Terman, has a book coming out next week which might be useful to you.
posted by feets at 10:52 PM on October 16, 2012

I found a lot of information about Light Therapies For Depression here:


The site in general seems like it may be good, although my interest in it is regarding sunglasses to sort out my extreme night-owl tendencies.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:23 PM on October 17, 2012

There are a few short questionnaires at cet.org that are supposed to help figure out the optimal time for each person to use their light.

I took the questionnaires, but then discovered that one of the bulbs in my light had been busted. Hopefully the replacement bulb comes soon.

posted by fredmounts at 9:56 AM on October 18, 2012

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