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How To Use Light Therapy?

I've been reading through the DSPS section of this website. In the main article, the author mentions light therapy as a way to treat DSPS. He says that for it to be effective the light would have to be at least 10,000 lux, and you should have the light in your periphery because doing so causes the light to activate more photoreceptors in your retina.

Firstly, is what I said above true? Did I misunderstand anything I read?

Secondly, could you talk more about how to use light therapy as a treatment for DSPS? Specifically, I'd like to know when to expose yourself, for how long, at what intensity etc. I anticipate that the answer will involve saying that it depends on the person and circumstances. If so, could you 1) give general guidelines and 2) talk about how the specifics and circumstances of the person affect how you use light therapy as a treatment (ex. if you have good sleep hygiene, typically sleep from 5AM to 2PM and want to sleep from 12AM to 8AM; hopefully I didn't get my AM and PM confused)

Finally, are there any good light box products that you would recommend?

Thanks a lot for your help.

Kevin: Hey, thanks for your question. Your description in the first paragraph sounds like you interpreted those elements from the article correctly. 10,000 lux is what I've heard in class to be the ideal minimum strength of the light to be effective, and you want it in your periphery so that it's incidental to your activity and focus, just like sunlight is normally during the day.

Artificial light (computer screens, TV, lights on at night) makes it easy for our brain to think that night time is actually part of the day still. The idea behind using a light box to shift circadian rhythms is to essentially trick your body into realizing that daytime starts earlier in the morning than it thinks, so it should adjust when it gets tired at night accordingly.

The way you do this is by exposing yourself to bright light in the morning, progressively closer to your target wake time. Meanwhile, you also want to stay away from bright artificial light deep into the night.

So for shifting a delayed sleep phase backward, you want bright light in the morning upon waking (or even better, before waking). On the flip side, for shifting an advanced sleep phase forward, you want bright light in the evening or early night.

Light boxes are the real professional way to go about shifting your circadian, but I find for me personally that sleeping with the curtains open is usually good enough to shift me in a few days. With my curtains open, bright sunlight enters the room around 7 or 8AM. If I'm still sleeping at the time, the light can still make its way through my eyelids to communicate with my brain, letting it know its daytime. Some light boxes I believe come with timers that lets you control when they come on and turn off, so alternatively you'd probably be able to achieve a similar effect with a user-friendly light box.

I've never used one myself, so I don't have any recommendations on a specific product. Has anyone out there reading this found a light box that they have found particularly useful? Furthermore, does anyone have any additional commentary or questions about light therapy in general? Feel free to post any thoughts using the comments link below.


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

Comments for How To Use Light Therapy?

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Aug 13, 2011
10,000 lux minimum
by: Adam

I've heard on this website numerous times that 10,000 lux is the minimum needed for effective light therapy (to treat DSPS).

Being that this is just the minimum for effectiveness, how many lux is recommended to maximize effectiveness?

Also, I've been looking for light boxes, and I haven't found any that give off more than 10,000 lux? Does anyone know of a light box that gives off more than 10,000 lux?

Oct 26, 2011
How to use a Light Therapy Device
by: Parry

I don't know how correct the analysis is, but I used this to create a schedule for using the light therapy device I bought off of eBay.

If you are on a tight budget like me, then I would suggest getting an LED light therapy device (As opposed to a lamp). I bought mine used, and it works great, cost half the price of a new one, and won't burn out(the danger with buying a used light therapy lamp is that the bulbs need to be replaced and are always quite expensive). Supposedly some of the newer research has shown LED light therapy devices to be as effective as light therapy lamps

Good brands for LED light therapy devices appear to be Phillips and Apollo. Steer clear of Zadro. Make sure that if you get an LED light therapy device from eBay (or Amazon) that it is for Circadian disorders and not something else.

Feb 07, 2012
Bright light, glasses and headset! NEW
by: Naïssa

I'm from Belgium so I don't know that the products that the doctors have advised me to use are available in your country.
The hospital that diagnosed me with DSPS told me that there was only one light on the market that was effective. I don't know why all the others are not effective (according to the professor), but she was very sure and strict about it.
As I already had bought a light, I was pleased to hear that the light I had, was in fact the right one (DSPS made me poor).
It's is the HF3320 LED light from Philips. I don't know that the references are the same all over the world. Here the (dutch) page with a picture of the light:
According to the hospital there is even a better way to use light therapy, namely with the 'Luminette'. The Luminette are glasses with in-built bright light. You can use it while walking, working... ( The hospital (Gasthuisberg in Louvain, Belgium - wordly known and acknowledged as a very good clinic) raved about the glasses.
Due to DSPS I have very little money, so I haven't been able to buy the (expensive) glasses and try them.
BTW, I don't know whether it's futuristic (or BS) but my doctor told me that there is also a headset (origin: Finland) with bright light to put in your ears. Apparantly the brain picks up this light and the body acts accordingly... I just looked it up and found this website:
That's all I know!
Good luck!

Feb 18, 2015
sleep NEW
by: Anonymous

Light can be an effective tool for sleep therapy.

Sep 05, 2016
Falling asleep in front of lightbox NEW
by: Sue

I have a lightbox anyway which I use during the winter to help with SAD but I can't use it to help the delayed sleep problem. If I get up earlier than usual, even a couple of hours, I just fall asleep again in front of the lightbox!

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