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Light Therapy: The Benefits and Drawbacks

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a form of treatment that involves exposure to artificial light. This treatment is commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the winter months when there is less sunlight. It is also used to treat other conditions such as sleep disorders, skin conditions, and certain types of cancer.
Light Therapy

The Science Behind Light Therapy

Light therapy works by exposing the skin to a specific type of light, usually white light or blue light. This light mimics the natural sunlight that the body needs to regulate its internal clock, which in turn affects sleep, mood, and other physiological processes. The light therapy is usually administered through a light box or lamp, and the person being treated sits in front of it for a set amount of time each day.

The Benefits of Light Therapy

Light therapy has been found to have a number of benefits, including:

  • Treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Improving mood and energy levels
  • Reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Regulating sleep patterns
  • Reducing symptoms of jet lag
  • Treating skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema
  • Treating certain types of cancer

Some studies have also found that light therapy can be effective in treating other conditions such as bipolar disorder, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The Drawbacks of Light Therapy

While light therapy can be a highly effective treatment for many conditions, there are some drawbacks that should be considered. Some people may experience side effects such as headaches, eyestrain, and nausea. Additionally, light therapy may not be effective for everyone and may require several weeks of treatment before any benefits are noticed.

Another potential drawback of light therapy is the cost. Light boxes and lamps can be expensive, and the cost may not be covered by insurance.


Q: Is light therapy safe?

A: Yes, light therapy is generally considered safe when used as directed. However, it may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions such as bipolar disorder or epilepsy.

Q: How long does it take for light therapy to work?

A: The amount of time it takes for light therapy to work varies from person to person. Some people may notice an improvement in their symptoms within a few days, while others may require several weeks of treatment.

Q: Can I use a regular lamp for light therapy?

A: No, regular lamps are not effective for light therapy. Light therapy requires a specific type of light that is brighter and more intense than regular indoor lighting.

Q: How often should I use light therapy?

A: The frequency of light therapy sessions depends on the individual and the condition being treated. Generally, sessions last between 20 and 30 minutes and are done once a day.


Light therapy can be a highly effective treatment for many conditions, particularly seasonal affective disorder. However, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks and to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment. With proper use and guidance, light therapy can be a safe and effective way to improve mood, regulate sleep, and treat a variety of conditions.