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How to Use a Full Spectrum Light for SAD

author image Sava Tang Alcantara
Sava Tang Alcantara has been a writer and editor since 1988, working as a writer and editor for health publications such as "Let's Live Magazine" and "Whole Life Times." Alcantara specializes in health and fitness and is a certified yoga teacher and personal trainer. She does volunteer work regularly and has taught free public yoga classes in Santa Monica, Calif. since 2002.
How to Use a Full Spectrum Light for SAD
A woman sitting in front of a light therapy box while rubbing her temples. Photo Credit: Rocky89/iStock/Getty Images

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs during winter when people are exposed to fewer hours of natural sunlight. Symptoms of this condition include anxiety, fatigue, depression, overeating, weight gain and oversleeping. About half a million Americans experience SAD, or winter-onset depression, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Using full-spectrum lights as light boxes or special bulbs and lamps can help reduce the negative symptoms of SAD.

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Decide on a Visor, Lightbox or Bulbs

Step 1

Determine what kind of exposure to full-spectrum light is best for you. If you are comfortable wearing a special visor imbedded with full-spectrum lights under the brim, consider wearing it first thing in the morning for at least 30 minutes. If your eyes or skin are very sensitive to sunlight, this might not be a good option for you.

Step 2

Experiment with using a lightbox. These are sold online or in specialty stores. It may appear to be an actual box-like structure that can be propped up on a kitchen table or countertop. Generally, it is recommended that 30 minutes of daily exposure to full-spectrum light can reduce or eliminate the negative effects of SAD.

Step 3

Install full-spectrum light bulbs in the light fixtures and lamps that you use in the morning. The idea behind light therapy is to have early morning and end of day exposure to full-spectrum light. For those who may not want to always use a light box, consider taking a walk for 15 minutes first thing in the morning and again for 15 minutes at the end of the day before dusk.

Step 4

Consult with your doctor: depending on the strength of your light box, she may advise 15 minutes to start, adding a few minutes at a time to build up to even two hours. The light box is categorized by lux, a measurement of light according to the distance from its source. The light box is usually made in 2,500 to 10,000 lux types.

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