What is Light Therapy and How Can it Improve My Health?

There’s a reason why many people follow the sun, and it’s more than just the warmth and the healthy glow on your skin. In the era before technology provided people with light on-demand, circadian rhythms developed around the ever-changing day/night cycle. Fewer buildings and no automobiles meant less time spent inside, and the ozone layer offered more protection from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) portion of the sun’s spectrum than it does today.

In contemporary society, though, shift work, enjoyment of night life, and skin cancer avoidance are only a few of the reasons why you may not have the level of sun exposure to which your body originally adapted. While sometimes used to treat skin conditions, light therapy also sees use as a powerful mood booster. The team at Abbey Neurodynamic Center uses this all-natural treatment for certain neurological conditions — it’s a drug-free way to restore your mood and boost your energy.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Every year, the shorter days of fall and winter cause some people to fall into a funk. Called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short, this type of cyclical depression dominates the colder months, though there are some people who experience SAD in reverse. For most, symptoms start as the days get shorter, getting worse until the seasons change and daylight levels shift back to their pre-SAD conditions. People who react to SAD experience symptoms such as:

Those who experience SAD in the fall and winter tend to put on weight and oversleep, while spring and summer SAD patients usually lose weight and experience insomnia.

The light therapy advantage

The reasons why SAD occurs aren’t fully known, but there’s a connection between the types and amounts of light to which you’re exposed and the serotonin levels in your body. A drop in the amount of the neurotransmitter may trigger depression. Seasonal changes can also affect levels of melatonin, potentially affecting your mood and sleep patterns.

Adding controlled amounts of light during a light therapy session counteracts the loss of natural light for those with fall-winter SAD. The therapy uses a box of fluorescent lights that mimics natural, outdoor light. The exposure usually works best in the morning, as our bodies follow the sun’s natural cycle.

Light therapy is as simple as sitting or working near a light box. It’s important that your eyes are open during therapy, but the light must enter your eyes indirectly, since the light box could be strong enough to cause damage when viewed directly. Effective therapy involves a combination of light intensity, session duration, and treatment timing.

Part of a treatment program

Light therapy likely won’t cure SAD, but as part of an overall treatment plan, you could see increased energy and reduced negative symptoms. When your sessions are consistent, light therapy could show results in as little as a few days, though some people won’t see benefits for weeks.

Contact Dr. Richard Abbey and the team at Abbey Neurodynamic Center by phone at 650-210-7922 or online to schedule your consultation to learn if light therapy is right for you.

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