Bright light therapy, also known as light therapy and phototherapy, is a therapy that can be used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including forms of depression and sleep disorders/circadian rhythm disorders.

Light therapy is easy to use. All it takes is a light therapy box or lamp, which you turn on, and sit close enough for your eyes and skin to absorb the light for an allotted amount of time. The machines give off a bright light that simulates outdoor sunshine, boosting melatonin, serotonin, and vitamin D, among other effects. However, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations with respect to the actual distance needed to get the proper amount of light in 30 minutes.

The light exposure provided by a lightbox is thought to trigger the production of the brain chemical serotonin, in the way natural light does. Serotonin, which is often called the “feel-good” hormone, plays an essential part in the proper functioning of your mind and body, affecting mood, emotions, motor skills, and sleep.

Exposure to light both resets the circadian rhythm of melatonin and acutely inhibits melatonin synthesis. This is why the treatment is also used to improve sleep issues, by helping to regulate the sleep/wake cycle.

People have also reported success with lights that turn on shortly before awakening, to simulate dawn. Using a lightbox in the mornings can queue the body that it is daytime, jumpstarting the body’s clock.

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