Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Bright-light therapy: This is exposure to bright artificial light, brighter than usual home or office lighting. Bright-light therapy relieves symptoms for about two-thirds of people with seasonal affective disorder.
Bright-light therapy products are available for sale and range in cost from $200-$500. They range from 2,500-10,000 lux. Many experts recommend that 10,000 lux be used, for adults, teens or during childhood. Bright-light therapy has also been found to be effective during pregnancy. Only devices that filter out harmful ultraviolet waves should be used. Types of devices include light panels or boxes, blankets, and visors.
The bright-light source should be placed at eye level. Although staring at the light source is not recommended, the light must enter the eyes if it is to work. (Simple skin exposure does not work.) An approved bright-light therapy device should not harm the eyes if used as recommended.
About 30 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux each day is enough to relieve symptoms in most people. Others require greater exposure, as long as 45 minutes twice a day. You may need some trial and error to find the right amount. Your health care professional will guide you.
Properly used, bright-light therapy has few side effects. A few people have reported eyestrain, headache, fatigue, irritability, sensitivity to light, or inability to sleep (only if therapy is used late in the day).
Certain medications make you more sensitive to light. Be sure to inform your health care professional of all the medications you are taking, including nonprescription medications and dietary supplements.
Tanning beds should not be used for bright-light therapy as they do not filter out harmful ultraviolet waves.
You may notice improvement in symptoms within a few days, or it may take as long as
three to four weeks after starting therapy.