Frequently Asked Questions About Light Therapy For Seasonal Affective Disorder

People experience different kinds of pain. There are different types of pain, but the more common type is physical pain. Injuries and diseases are some of the leading causes that result in physical pain. Physical pain can manifest through feelings of aching, burning, and throbbing. 

However, people feel another kind of pain, which we don’t talk about as often. And that is psychological pain. Likewise the former, this type of pain can stem from several causes as well. But in this article, the focus is on seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression induced by seasonal changes. SAD is also known as “winter depression.” People typically experience this condition during the fall and winter seasons where there is less sunlight.


People with SAD experience symptoms similar to that of major depression, which can interfere with daily functioning. 

Symptoms include the following:

  • loss of interest in activities
  • loss of energy
  • changes in sleep
  • difficulty thinking
  • suicidal thoughts

How does change in sunlight trigger SAD? Researchers have proposed several theories to explain this phenomenon. Decreased exposure to sunlight leads to a shift in people’s biological clocks. This shift affects the regulation of hormones, which in turn affects mood and sleep patterns. 

One of the affected hormones is serotonin – the happiness hormone. Serotonin levels drop with decreased sunlight causing mood changes. Seasonal changes also affect melatonin, the sleep hormone. With a lack of sunlight, there is an overproduction of melatonin. As a result, people feel sleepier. 

SAD’s link with sunlight exposure is mediated with light therapy.  

If you want to learn more about how light therapy may help with SAD, here are the frequently asked questions on this topic. Light therapy is one of the most utilized treatments for the condition. This article will focus specifically on the science behind light therapy—its processes, guidelines, risks, and benefits. Also, learn more about alternative treatment methods for SAD and how to maintain their benefits to prevent relapse. 

Do SAD light boxes really work?

SAD light boxes may ease the symptoms of your health conditions. It can also boost your energy levels and improve your feelings about yourself. Light therapy can begin to enhance the symptoms within a short period. However, light therapy is not the solution or cure for SAD, nonseasonal depression, or other health conditions.

How does light therapy work for seasonal affective disorder?

The lightbox’s light simulates the sunlight, which cannot be seen during the darker winter season. The light may alleviate SAD by decreasing the brain’s melatonin production and promote the creation of serotonin.

Can you use a SAD light too much?

An individual that gets too much light may experience discomfort, like the feeling after consuming too much caffeine. To avoid this, it is best to consult with a clinician to give a proper dose that works well for you.

How long does it take for light therapy to work for SAD?

Usually, people respond to light therapy within three to five days. Meanwhile, if there is no response within the first week, an improvement may appear in the second week.


Do SAD lights help with vitamin D deficiency?

Experts do not recommend using sun lamps to induce vitamin D production since more research is done on this matter. According to them, the UV light from these may cause an increased risk for skin cancer. Instead, it is better to take supplemental vitamins with 2000 IUs per day to help with vitamin D deficiency.

Does light therapy help anxiety?

Light therapy dramatically reduces anxiety and depression scores. However, there are no significant differences between high- and low-intensity treatment.

Does a SAD lampwork if your eyes are closed?

Most light therapy studies have proven that positive effects are made when the eyes are open. The regular 10,000 lux per ½ hour session requires that your eyes are open.

Do SAD lamps give you a tan?

No, the sun lamps intended for SAD cannot give a tan since they filter the ultraviolet light. If you are using a sun lamp for SAD, it is vital to consult with your doctor. Using an incorrect type of lamp can harm your eyes and cause other detrimental effects.

Can you do light therapy at night?

Results of researches about whether light therapy works more effectively at a specific time of day varies. However, some people with SAD do their light therapy for one to two hours in the evening.

Can you wear glasses during light therapy?

Any individual can wear glasses or contact lenses during light therapy. However, in treating SAD, it is advisable not to wear sunglasses or tinted lenses.

Can light therapy hurt your eyes?

Looking directly at the lightbox can harm your eyes. While light therapy is generally safe, some conditions need extra precaution. People with bipolar disorder may show symptoms and become manic after excessive light exposure. Additionally, people with an eye condition or diabetes do have a higher risk of eye damage.

How long does SAD last?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that happens at a similar time every year. It can occur during spring or summer, but it usually starts late and lasts until the end of the winter season.

Does light therapy really work for wrinkles?

Red light therapy (RLT) pursues to solve skin issues through low wavelength red light. Many experts have confidence that this therapy can aid in cases such as aging and scarring. Although RLT is not a miracle cure, there is some evidence to prove these claims.

Does red light therapy burn fat?

Red Light Therapy is an up to date advanced technology that utilizes a specific type of therapeutic light. This light can penetrate, open up fat cells, and dissolve the fat. Through this therapy, the fats transform and burn as energy.

Can I use light therapy all day?

It is recommended to take light therapy for 30 minutes to 2 hours a day. The recommended duration depends on the intensity level of the light used or whether you have been using it for some time.


Symptoms of SAD generally improve with seasonal change, but treatment fastens mood improvement. Healthy lifestyle habits can also minimize SAD symptoms and prevent them from coming back. These habits include exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating a well-balanced diet. 

Spending time outside or working near a clear glass window can also help increase exposure to natural sunlight. It’s best to engage in these activities while undergoing treatments to maximize their benefits.

Social support is also important in improving mental health. Depressive symptoms may push people to isolate themselves from social circles and would further reinforce SAD. As such, maintaining connection through volunteering, socialization, and spending time together is beneficial for recovery.

SAD may be linked with the changing seasons, but with the right tools and support, people can work around SAD.