Light Therapy: Definition, Works, Side effects and more...

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Light Therapy: Defination, Works, Side effects and more...

As per Wikipedia, "Light therapy or phototherapy, classically referred to as heliotherapy, consists either of exposure to daylight or some equivalent form of light as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder or exposure of the skin to specific wavelengths of light using polychromatic polarized light to treat a skin condition." 

In light therapy, also known as phototherapy, the patient is exposed to an artificial light source, similar to the sunlight. This therapy is mainly effective in the cases of SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) i.e. it is a major depressive disorder that occurs in a particular season during a certain time or season, especially in winters. It is also used to treat insomnia and sleeping disorders. 

How light therapy works?

a girl in daylight - vector graphic

Light therapy is mainly opted to compensate for the deprivation of sunlight which results in depression, anxiety, change in sleeping patterns, or sleeping disorders such as insomnia. The patient is allowed to sit near a light therapy box that emits strong light, similar to sunlight. 

To avoid damage, the light should shine into your eyes indirectly, not directly. This therapy usually begins in the winter season in case of SAD and ends in the early spring season. The therapy session usually lasts for 10-15 minutes depending upon the patient's capability and strength of the light therapy box. If the light therapy box is more powerful then the treatment will last for less time and vice versa. 

Light therapy triggers the production of serotonin, a "feel-good brain hormone" which lifts up your mood with this therapy. 

Some side effects you can also experience with light therapy:

These side effects include sunburn, red or watery eyes, headache, nausea, etc. These side effects can be removed by reducing the length of light therapy sessions Or the strength of light emitted from the light therapy box. Or, alternately you can also reduce these side effects by using sunscreens, nasal drops, or eye drops. 

You must immediately contact your physician in case you have: 

  1. Sensitive skin
  2. Chronic eye conditions
  3. A history of skin cancer 

Pros of Light Therapy 

Light therapy has many positive effects and can be done at the ease of your home with your own rented or purchased lightbox. 

Here are some pros of Light Therapy: 

  1. Noninvasive 
  2. Safe
  3. Convenient 
  4. Associated with few or mild side effects

Cons of Light Therapy 

Every coin has two aspects and so is light therapy. 

Here are some cons of light therapy that you might deal with: 

  1. Headache
  2. Insomnia
  3. Sunburn
  4. Fatigue
  5. Dry eyes and nose
  6. Hypomania, an extended period of heightened mood 

Light Therapy for Insomnia: 

Light therapy is found to be helpful for patients with sleeping disorders such as insomnia, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, and some types of depression. 

Some doctors also recommend light therapy in case the patient is experiencing sleeping issues related to: 

  1. Insomnia
  2. Circadian rhythm sleep disorder
  3. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  4. Depression
  5. Jet lag
  6. Working an overnight schedule
  7. Alzheimer’s disease or dementia 

When light therapy is practiced regularly, then it might be useful in resetting the circadian rhythm i.e. biological clock of the body in the patients. This results in the enhancement of sleeping behaviors of the patients and the individuals undergoing light therapy are better able to fall asleep earlier at night, or sleep in later in the morning, depending on what they need. 

In the light therapy session, eyes’ retinal cells perceive the light from the light therapy box, affecting certain chemicals in your brain. 

These chemicals are called melatonin and serotonin, and they’re responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle. The perception of light delays your brain’s melatonin production, waking you up and lifting your mood. 

Light Therapy for Depression 

Patients with non-seasonal depression also commonly face sleep issues, including insomnia, hypersomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Although the research on this part is less conclusive, light therapy is also apparently beneficial for individuals with non-seasonal depression. 

Light therapy alone can be beneficial for these individuals, although light therapy in combination with an antidepressant tends to be more effective in case of depression.

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