Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bright Light Therapy

By: Corissa Conard

“There is just not enough time in the day.” This is a phrase said and heard way too often, and is one that is pretty accurate – especially during the winter months when daylight is not on our side. There is nothing that can be done to change the amount of sunlight that is encountered throughout the day, but there is something you can do to put more hours back in your day.  Whether you are a corporate employee or business owner, a student-athlete, or stay-at-home mom, anyone can find benefit in this type of wellness tool.  

Feeling Better by a Flip of a Switch, Literally
Suffer from depression, fatigue, and a lack of concentration, insomnia or other sleep disorders? Live in cooler climates, the northern latitudes, or do most work indoors? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, there may be an alternative therapy that does not involve supplements, doctors/psychiatrists, or prescriptions. In as little as thirty minutes each day, you can increase energy and mood levels by simply sitting in front of a light.

A light? Yes, a bright light to be specific.  It sounds silly, really, but it makes much sense if you take a look at it scientifically:

From an evolutionary standpoint we are inclined to assume people slowdown in the winter - much like hibernation.  As the days get shorter and darker, our bodies respond to the light/dark shift by way of our circadian rhythm (i.e. our internal clocks) which virtually affects a whole host of cells within our body by, most notably, producing the hormone Melatonin.  Melatonin is known as the ‘sleepy hormone’ that is produced during the evening hours when our eyes, and then brain, processes the decrease in amount of light rays which sends us yawning.  All in all, “Lengthened duration of elevated nocturnal melatonin secretion during the winter nights has been implicated as an underlying physiological seasonal change associated with the pathology of winter depression” (Wehr et all 2001). By flipping on this specific light, you’re essentially suppressing that Melatonin and increasing your chances of a productive, fulfilling day!

Not Just for the Northern Lad
For over twenty years, there have been numerous studies completed, with many being done in clinical settings on those diagnosed with major depression. With the right intensity, timing, and duration, patients saw an 80% remission rate – a result scientists confirmed as being comparable to many antidepressants! So besides the typical winter depression, there are other depressive states this can possibly treat such as major non-seasonal depression (just mentioned above), and those suffering from bulimia and anorexia nervosa, two forms of eating disorders. 

The Right Duration, Intensity, and Timing
Candle light at 20 cm
10-15 Lux
Street light
10-20 Lux
Normal living room lighting
100 Lux
Office fluorescent light
300-500 Lux
Halogen lamp
750 Lux
Sunlight, 1 hour before sunset
1000 Lux
Daylight, cloudy sky
5000 Lux
Daylight, clear sky
10,000 Lux
Bright sunlight
> 20,000 Lux
The table to the right compares everyday objects or technologies to outdoor light in terms of intensity (aka lux).

General Information & Guidelines:
  • The higher the lux is, the greater the intensity of light
  • Rule of thumb: the higher the lux, the lower the duration (or time spent). 
  • The greatest bang for your buck is 10,000 lux at 30 minutes
  • Everyone responds differently so finding the right intensity and duration can take some time and practice.  Back off duration or intensity if experiencing either one or all of these symptoms: dizziness, nausea, and/or headaches.

  • Outdoors on a sunny day is 500- 1,000 times brighter than office or room lighting.
    Do not use if diagnosed with light sensitive diseases, such as retinopathies, or psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder. Talk to your physician if you have questions or concerns

How FitRiss involves this in her in-home personal training services

Did I say sitting before? I meant moving! With the convenience of traveling to the client’s home, FitRiss also sets up a light box in the exercise area. Keep in mind that there is a particular distance from the light box that the client’s eyes can go, and furthering the distance makes the treatment less effective.  The great thing about this movement/exercise service, however, is that it doesn’t involve straying too far from the light as all the movements are done in a small space.  The overall thought is that when exercise is combined with this type of therapy it can create a double whammy effect in energy and mood levels, as it is a long held and evident fact that proper exercise induces production of the body’s happy hormones, and as we now know, light therapy can virtually do the same!

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