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.

To Make an Appointment

To make an appointment, or for more information, call 765.496.1788, or visit the CoRec Wellness Suite. This is a free service.


  • Proven to alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Safe; has few side effects
  • May increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medication and/or mental health counseling
  • May alleviate symptoms of other types of Depression
  • Can be used to treat jet lag and other sleep disorders
  • May increase energy levels and improve mood

What to Expect

Light therapy takes place in the CoRec Wellness Suite. During a light therapy session, sit near the light box. You can read, work on a laptop, eat and/or talk on the phone during a session. 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.

How to Get the Most out of Light Therapy

  • 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 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

  • Your skin is especially sensitive to light
  • You take herbs or medication(s) that increase your sensitivity to sunlight, such as certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or St. John’s Wort.
  • Your eyes are especially sensitive to light or vulnerable to light damage
  • 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.
We are located in the
CoRec Wellness Suite.

Purdue University, Recreation & Wellness, West Lafayette, IN 47907 (765) 494-3109

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