Have you ever heard of a light therapy box (or “happy light”)? They’re generally used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but they can also be used for different sleep disorders and even jet lag.
The light from a light therapy box is extremely strong and is designed to mimic sunlight. If you work in an office, have trouble feeling tired at night, live in a cloudy climate, or just feel a bit blah in the winter months, a happy light might help!
This post was made possible by Verilux, who graciously provided me with the HappyLight Lucent in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The post may contain affiliate links, which might earn me a tiny commission if you choose to make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Read more here.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor and/or therapist before starting light therapy, or if you have any questions about it. Bear in mind that this article is not meant to diagnose or cure any conditions, and should not be misconstrued as medical advice.
What is Light Therapy Used for?
Traditionally, people tend to associate light therapy boxes with seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy is definitely used for that, but recently, there have been studies that suggest a happy light may help with nonseasonal depression as well. So anyone with clinical depression may benefit from this.
Light therapy can also be used to treat sleep disorders. There is a strong tie between light and sleep. By turning on the light therapy box as soon as you wake up, you are signaling to your brain that it is daytime. This will help your body to naturally adjust its circadian rhythm, causing you to be more alert in the mornings, and able to fall asleep easier at night.
Similarly, if you work swing shifts or overnights, you might want to consider a happy light. Using it when you first wake up will prepare your mind for a new day, even with an erratic schedule.
If you work in an office or just don’t get outside as much as you should, a happy light can help!
How to Use a Light Therapy Box
You may want to work with your doctor or other healthcare provider, especially when you’re first starting out with light therapy.
The general recommendation is to use your light therapy box as soon as you wake up, and keep it on for thirty minutes. Verilux encourages users to start at ten minutes and work their way up until they find a time that works for them. It may take some trial and error to find your perfect schedule.
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You want to have the light shining on you, but you don’t want to look directly at it (trust me, it’s bright). So you could put it to your side as you eat breakfast or put on makeup. It’s really not too hard to fit into your morning routine.
I am a breakfast person. I can’t start my day on an empty stomach. So what I’ve been doing is setting it up at the breakfast table. Eating with my son takes much longer than thirty minutes, so it’s easy to stick to this schedule. I just keep it pointed at me so he doesn’t look directly at it.
Why Does Light Therapy Work?
A happy light gives off a bright light that mimics the sun, but it filters out UV rays. That means you don’t have to worry about sunscreen while you bask in the glow!
When you use your happy light consistently, at the same time each morning, you’re telling your brain that it’s daytime. Your brain registers this, and you get more energy. This is why light therapy works for seasonal depression.
However, there is also some research that suggests it can also help with regular (non-seasonal) depression. The theory is that light may affect neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin. If you’re at all familiar with depression, you know that serotonin affects our mood.
Light therapy works to regulate sleep the same way it works to fight seasonal depression. When you turn your light on each morning, your brain realizes it’s daytime. Your internal clock (circadian rhythm) works at 24-hour intervals. So if you use it at 6 AM each morning, your body will be tired by the time you’re ready for sleep. You’ll also start to feel more alert at 6 AM, even if previously you were barely conscious at that time.
There are very few potential side effects, and most of them can be avoided with proper use (for example, eye damage can be avoided by placing the light as directed). So, for people that are wary of medication, this might be a good alternative.
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The HappyLight Lucent by Verilux
This is such a cute light therapy lamp. It looks like an iPad or eReader. According to Verilux, they wanted it to be sleek and blend in with your surroundings. It’s super compact so if you need to take it somewhere, it’s easy to do so!
It’s extremely simple to use, too. Plug it in, attach the (included) stand, and hit the power button! You could easily use this while eating breakfast, doing your makeup, or (if you had to) in your cubicle! Remember that you want to use it as close to the time you wake up as possible, though.
The only thing I wish I could change about this would be to have it charge, rather than needing to plug it in. It’s not a big deal, but I like being wire-free, and not having to find a plug nearby. However, for the price, I don’t think you’ll find anything better. It’s super affordable, which I love.
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The Lucent is small, but its light still provides 10,000 lux, which is the recommended amount for light therapy. It doesn’t produce UV rays, so there is no need to worry about skin damage.
It also uses energy-saving LED technology, and you never have to replace a bulb! In doing research for this post, I found that a lot of seemingly affordable lights will trick you with expensive bulbs. The Lucent is extremely affordable, and the fact that you never have to replace a bulb makes it cost effective.
Quick Note on Light Therapy for Bipolar
Light therapy has recently been used on people with bipolar disorder. Previously, it was thought that light therapy might bring on manic episodes.
Now there is evidence that using a happy light can help with bipolar, as well! If you have bipolar, check with your doctor first. The study I am referencing used the happy lights at midday rather than first thing in the morning. So be sure to work closely with a professional.
Do you or someone you love have seasonal depression? Could a happy light help you? Be sure to check out the HappyLight Lucent by Verilux if you’re interested. Use coupon code OURPARENTPLACE for 15% off sitewide! And don’t forget to share this info on social media!