Light Therapy

Light therapy is performed to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by providing exposure to artificial light. Individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder suffer symptoms similar to depression during the fall and winter, when the days are shorter and the skies are often cloudy. Light therapy involves use of a light box that emits bright light simulating sunlight. Our light therapy box is in the mindfulness room and is available during all open hours.

Light Therapy Locations

RecWell has two spaces for light therapy.

  1. There are light therapy boxes located in the Mindfulness Room on Level 2 of the CoRec. The Mindfulness Room located in the main corridor leading to the Fitness Pavillion. Look for the Mindfulness Room sign. 
  2. Across from the Mindfulness Room is a private light therapy/lactation space. This space is open on a first come, first serve basis for light therapy. No appointment is required to use the private space. We ask that light therapy sessions be 30 minutes or less. 


The in's & out's of Light Therapy

  • Light deprivation – Many people experience a change in mood or energy levels when they find themselves deprived of natural daylight. This can be due to the change in seasons or when they find themselves deprived of natural daylight due to night shift work, airplane travel, or a lifestyle that includes a lot of time indoors.
  • Circadian rhythm disruption – Our bodies strive to maintain regular sleep patterns through the timed release of hormones regulated by our internal clock, otherwise known as circadian rhythms. This internal cycle takes cues from external light sources (specifically dawn to dusk) to signal the body that it’s time to wake up or go to sleep. Ordinary indoor lighting, late-night studying and the glow of computer screens and televisions can disrupt these natural cues and make it difficult to get a healthy night’s sleep. Studies show that light therapy can help the body recalibrate and normalize circadian rhythms and help you get a great night’s sleep.
  • Winter Blues – The “Winter Blues” is a reaction to the reduced amount of natural daylight available during the winter months. People who suffer from it experience normal health for most of the year but battle fatigue and low energy symptoms when daylight diminishes. Symptoms of the “Winter Blues” include sluggishness, sleep problems, change in diet, and even loss of mental acuity.
How it Works

During a light therapy session, sit near the light box. In order to be effective, the light must enter your eyes indirectly. The box should be positioned 11–15 inches away from you and tilted downward. Do not look directly into the light box.

  • Light therapy is most effective when it is done early in the morning; however you can still gain benefits by using light therapy during other times in the day.
  • When you first begin light therapy, it is recommended to start with shorter blocks of time, such as 10–15 minutes. You can gradually work up to longer sessions, such as 30–60 minutes. 
  • Light therapy is most effective when performed consistently. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, light therapy may be recommended daily, 2–3 times per week, or once per week.
Side Effects
Side effects that are usually mild may include eyestrain, headache, nausea, or irritability. Symptoms may decrease within a few days after starting light therapy. Side effects can be managed by reducing treatment time, moving the box farther away, or taking breaks during longer sessions.
When to Use Caution

  • If you take herbs or medication(s) that increase your sensitivity to sunlight, such as certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or St. John’s Wort.
  • If your eyes are especially sensitive to light or vulnerable to light damage.
  • If you have a history of skin cancer.
  • If you have bipolar disorder, light therapy may trigger mania or hypomania symptoms. If you have any concerns about how light therapy is affecting your mood or mental health, see a medical professional right away.