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Light Therapy Lamps


Services, Life + Learning

  • man with lights on face

Services | December 23, 2019

If you find winter difficult, we’ve got just the thing to boost your spirits during the cold, dark months. Light Therapy Lamps are available for use on a first come, first served basis at all Idea Exchange locations.

Graciously provided by the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council and the Preston Chapter IODE, Light Therapy Lamps provide users with relief from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). SAD is a type of depression related to changes in the season, with symptoms starting in the fall and continuing through the winter months, when sunshine levels are at their lowest during the year. SAD can drain your energy and make you feel moody.

Light therapy is one of the first line treatments for SAD. It generally starts working in a few days to two weeks and causes few side effects. Therapy lamps mimic outdoor light by using a fluorescent bulb of a special intensity. Sitting near the lamp relieves symptoms by causing a change in the brain chemicals linked to mood. Over time, these lamps have proved successful in relieving SAD symptoms such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, and decreased energy.


To get the best result from the Light Therapy Lamp, start treatment in the autumn as soon as symptoms begin:

  • Sit 1-2 feet away from the light box, facing it but not looking directly into it.
  • The length of light therapy needed each day varies. Typically, around 30 minutes is sufficient.
  • You can do things such as eating, desk work, reading, knitting, etc, while sitting in front of the light box, but no sleeping! Your eyes must be open to get the benefit of the lamp.
  • Some studies suggest that treatment early in the morning works best; however, other studies do not confirm this. Therefore, it is often recommended that light therapy be carried out as early as possible in the day.


There are no reported harmful effects on the eyes with light therapy when used as described, but the long-term effects have not yet been studied. If you have eye problems (e.g., retinal disease, macular degeneration, or diabetes), or are using certain medications (thioridazine, lithium or melatonin) or suffer from bipolar disorder, please consult with your doctor before using the lamp.

Some people report feeling headaches, nausea, dizziness, and eye strain or feel “edgy” when first using the lamps. These symptoms are generally mild and improve over the course of a few days. If using the lamp makes you feel irritable, stop treatment and contact your doctor. If you decide to start using the lamps again, use a shorter exposure time (eg/ 15 minutes per day) or sit a little further away from the lamp. Remember, use of the lamp is done at your own risk and is one of many possible treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder; it should not be viewed as a cure.