Here is a quick guide to choosing a bright light therapy device.
1. Bright light therapy is not simply being in a brightly lit room. One cannot go to the local store and get a nice lamp. For bright light to be a treatment for seasonal affective disorder or other conditions, it has to be light of a particular intensity. The intensity of light is measured in the units of “lux.” Ideally, the device for bright light therapy should provide light of 10,000 lux intensity. With such a device, a 30-minute session of light therapy every day is sufficient for most persons.
2. If a lamp of slightly less intensity is used (e..g, 7,500 lux), the duration of daily light therapy would have to be increased to 45 or 60 minutes.
3. It should be noted that the light intensity specified for the lamp (e.g., 10,000 lux) is at a particular distance as specified by the manufacturer. If the person using the lamp sits at a distance greater than that specified by the manufacturer, the intensity of the light received will be less. Only a few devices can provide 10,000 lux at 18 inches or more. Other devices require the person’s face to be only 12 inches from the device in order to receive the full 10,000 lux intensity of light.
4. White light is recommended. Some lamps claim to provide “full spectrum light.” However, there is no known advantage to using these lamps. While blue light lamps have been promoted a lot recently, these have not been as well studied and are not recommended at this time. Similarly, the efficacy of devices using LED technology, dawn simulators, visors, etc is not well proven. I will continue to look into these alternative devices and will share with you any new conclusions that I may arrive at in the future. For now, it is probably best to stick with the tried and tested fluorescent white light as the primary treatment modality.
5. It is extremely important that the device have a filter for ultraviolet (UV) light because UV light is harmful to the eyes and skin.
6. Having a larger lamp or light box is better because even if the person moves a little bit, s/he will still be within the zone in which light is being effectively delivered.
7. The light should come to the eyes at an angle in such a way that there is not an intense glare that makes the person want to look away.
8. For all the reasons discussed above, it is not a good idea to buy a light therapy lamp or light box except one manufactured by a well-known company that specializes in such products. Even with a reputable company, avoid the smaller devices or those with lower intensity of light.
9. Another criterion that can help choose a bright light therapy device is whether that particular device has been shown to be efficacious in clinical trials.
For all the reasons discussed above, it is not a good idea to buy a light therapy lamp or light box except one manufactured by a well-known company that specializes in such products. Even with a reputable company, avoid the smaller devices or those with lower intensity of light.
Even though many fancy devices are available that make various claims, in my opinion it is best to stick with devices that have a proven track record.
Here are some devices that may be considered. To view details of these devices, click on the images or the links below:
Dr. Raymond Lam on Seasonal Affective Disorder-Part 1 (YouTube video)
Dr. Raymond Lam on Seasonal Affective Disorder-Part 2 (YouTube video)
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