Light therapy, also known as heliotherapy or phototherapy, dates back to over three thousand years. In the past, light therapy has been used in treating skin-related diseases such as leucoderma and psoriasis. More recently, light therapy has been applied to treatments in the fields of psychiatry, neontology, and ophthalmology. In the 80s, Norman E.Rosenthal coined the term SAD to refer to Seasonal Affective Disorders. He also conducted experiments to study the effects of light in the National Institute of Mental Health. The Alpine light treatment is another form of light therapy that was used in the 30s.
Today, light treatments take the form of exposure to daylight or specific wavelengths of light in order to obtain a range of different health results. The most common types of light therapy are ultraviolet light therapy and infrared light therapy.
What is light therapy used to treat?
Light therapy can be used to effectively treat a wide range of conditions. For instance, light therapy uses polychromatic polarized light sources to treat conditions like jaundice, eczema, vitiligo, and even cancer.
Light therapy is also effective in wound healing and the treatment of acne. Retinal conditions have also been corrected using light therapy in diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. Other skin disorders treated effectively using light therapy include cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and lichen planus.
Mood and sleep-related disorders have also found their solution in light therapy. For seasonal affective disorder, antidepressants have been ditched for light therapy solutions. The therapy can also help manage circadian rhythm disorders and jet lag.
How does light therapy work?
Light therapy involves exposure to artificial light that treats or is therapeutic for certain health conditions, such as seasonal depression. In most cases, the patient is recommended to work or sit near a light therapy box with light intensity and temperature that mimics natural daylight.
Light therapy is mostly used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is more prevalent in Northern regions that experience less sunlight at certain times of the year, such as Canada. The symptoms for SAD fall in the range of depression and social withdrawal. There are also feelings of fatigue and hopelessness that are associated with SAD. The disorder is usually self-diagnosed. It is treatable even though it resolves with time as the seasons also change.
In treating SAD, light therapy is used to trigger the brain chemicals that affect sleep and moods. It is a common choice of treatment for people seeking a treatment that is free from side effects. Light therapy also goes a long way in helping to increase the effectiveness of antidepressants and psychotherapy. In certain cases, the treatment can allow for the prescription of a lower dose of antidepressants. It can also be a useful treatment during pregnancy or breastfeeding, if looking to avoid consuming antidepressants.
Is light therapy effective?
The effectiveness of a light therapy session can be measured in terms of intensity. It is the amount of light that the user receives, measured in terms of LUX. The duration of a light therapy session is also important. A typical session will last for about 20 to 30 minutes with a 10,000 LUX therapy lamp. Sessions may last longer if using a lower intensity light therapy lamp.
Timing is also important. The most effective light therapy sessions are conducted in the morning after waking up. However, it’s always best to consult your doctor in order to know the optimal therapy times and a schedule for your treatment.
How to Choose the Best Light Therapy Lamp
There are a variety of light therapy lamps available in Canada. Therapy lamps vary in price, design, light sources, treatment purposes, and the features they offer. However, to choose the best therapy lamp, it’s critical to consider the intensity of the wavelength provided. A therapy lamp should also block out any UV radiation.
Another factor to consider is the lamp’s adjustability. For example, can you easily adjust the light’s brightness, height and angle?
The Best Light Therapy Lamps in Canada in 2021
Here is a breakdown of some of the best light therapy lamps available in Canada today:
The Beurer Infrared Red Light Therapy Heat Lamp is both a UV-blocking therapy lamp and a heat therapy lamp. With its red light, it’s effective at treating pain, colds, skin conditions, and more. The addition of heat helps improve circulation and blood flow. Its 6.5” by 15.7” lamp surface is big enough to treat a large portion of the body at a time.
To ensure correct placement, the lamp has an adjustable tilt of up to 50 degrees. The package includes safety goggles when the lamp has an active ventilation system that prevents overheating.
In addition to a built-in timer, the lamp has a digital display that shows the treatment time. It also has a ceramic glass plate that filters the red light to provide a mid-range infrared length of 500nm to 2,500nm. The short wave range is IRA 800nm to 1400nm, and the mid-wave range is IRB 1400nm to 2500nm. The lamp has an output of 300 watts and is certified for medical use.
- Can treat a wide range of conditions
- Can cover large parts of the body
- Provides both light therapy and heat therapy
- Provides a larger spectrum of red light than most lamps
- Difficult to position optimally for certain areas of the body
- The thermal tape does not last long
The Day-Light Sky Therapy Lamp is a great option for treating SAD from home. The lamp consists of an LED light, an adjustable arm, and a base plate. It can be easily adjusted to an optimal height and angle using the adjustable buttons. You can also adjust the lamp’s settings using the on/off/setting switch located on the lamp’s base plate.
The lamp has a high-impact polycarbonate lens material. It has electronic ballasts that offer an instant start with no flickers. The lamp is UL and C-UL listed. It offers two light settings for high light intensity and low light intensity. These light settings are the 10,000 LUX setting with two lights and the 5,000 LUX setting with one light. The light also contains two 55-watt compact fluorescent light tubes, and the color temperature of the light emitted is rated at 4,000 Kelvin.
The lamp is suitable for treating mild to severe symptoms.
- Has a glare-free diffuser and balanced white light for eye safety.
- Has a broad illumination field.
- Is height-adjustable with 3 height levels
- Emits a smell during the first time using it
- Is bulky and heavy compared to others
The Northern Lights Light Therapy floor lamp offers full spectrum lighting and 10,000 LUX of diffused light. As a floor lamp, it does not require a tabletop to sit on. This makes it a highly flexible therapy lamp that can be used throughout the house.
The floor lamp’s light angle can easily be adjusted to suit your needs. It has a large screen filled with many small screens that achieve 10,000 LUX at 12 inches and 5,000 LUX at 20 inches.The lamp is energy efficient and blocks all UV rays.
The lamp has two fluorescent tubes with full-spectrum lighting and a combined bulb wattage of 48 watts. The color temperature is 3,500 Kelvin, and the lamp can automatically switch between 110 to 270 volts, 50 or 60Hz.
- Flexible positioning due to floor lamp design.
- More stylish than most tabletop designs.
- Offers full spectrum lighting.
- Height is not adjustable.
- Cannot adjust the light’s intensity.
The Verilux HappyLight Therapy Light is sleek and offers full spectrum lighting. With it’s tabletop design, it’s the perfect SAD lamp that will easily blend into your office space.
The HappyLight has four levels of brightness and three choices of hues. In terms of hues, you can choose from Warm, Normal or Cool. Its bright white light emits up to 10,000 LUX in intensity. The lamp has a 144 LED energy-saving lens with dimensions of 53 square inches.
The lamp has a built-in timer that can be very useful. The HappyLight has also been tested for UV radiation and blue light. With its stylish and minimal tablet-like design, the HappyLight is a great SAD therapy lamp for the office.
- Can adjust both light brightness and hue.
- Has a built-in timer to help with timing your sessions.
- Cannot adjust the light’s angle.
While this isn’t a therapy lamp, the Philips SmartSleep Wake-up Light is designed to help you fall asleep and wake up more easily in the morning. By simulating a natural sunset before bed and sunrise in the morning, you can fall asleep and wake up more smoothly. For days when it’s less easy, the lamp has a 9-minute snooze button.
In addition to 20 levels of brightness, the light also has 5 natural wake-up sounds to choose from and an FM radio. Both the brightness level and sound will increase gradually as you wake up. When not in sleep-mode, the light can conveniently be used as a reading light or a clock.
The lamp is intuitive to use and has an auto-dimming display feature. Just like most therapy lamps on this list, the Philips Wake-up light is also UV radiation-free. Since it’s not a therapy lamp, the lamp’s light intensity is just 300 LUX.
- Has 20 different brightness levels (UV-free).
- Helps you fall asleep and wake up more easily.
- Can also be used as a reading light and clock.
- Limited by the 5 pre-set wake up sounds or FM radio.
- Buttons/settings can be hard to find in the dark.
What are the risks associated with light therapy?
If administered correctly, light therapy has little to no risks. Any side effects caused by phototherapy are mild and short-term. Potential risks associated with the treatment mostly include eyestrain and headaches. You can also experience nausea or mood alterations such as mania and euphoria. You can also experience hyperactivity or agitation, sweating, and other visual disturbances. In general, these side effects have a span of just a few days. However, you can avoid them by reducing the treatment time. You can also take breaks during longer sessions to minimize side effects.
What precautions should you take with light therapy?
You should take precautions with light therapy boxes that emit UV light. However, most light therapy boxes have a design that filters out the UV radiation that would otherwise cause strain and damage to the eyes and skin. It’s also a good idea to be aware of any conditions that may be irritated by light treatment. These include patients with conditions such as neuroleptics and systemic lupus erythematosus.
You should also be careful if you are on medication that increases your sensitivity to sunlight. Such medications include antibiotics classified as sulfonamides and sulfonylureas. Antihistamines, certain contraceptives, and anti-inflammatory drugs may also increase sensitivity to light.
Pre-existing eye conditions may also prevent one from taking the light therapy treatment. If you have light-sensitive eyes or skin, be sure to consult your doctor before undergoing a light therapy treatment.
Another precaution is for people diagnosed with bipolar disorder concerning side effects such as euphoria, mania, and agitation caused by light therapy treatments. The patient should first consult the doctor before undergoing any light therapy.
Can I use a tanning bed for light therapy?
Tanning beds are not an effective alternative to light therapy lamps and can actually be dangerous in the long-term. Tanning beds do not have UV blocking or filters that would otherwise protect your skin and eyes from UV radiation. Unless your tanning salon offers red light therapy, tanning beds cannot be used for light therapy.