Light Therapy Helps Reduce Depression
Getting enough natural light can be an important adjunctive therapy to help ease, eliminate and prevent depression. Bright lights stimulate the production of serotonin within hours, helping to balance neurotransmitters and decrease symptoms of depression. Several studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between hours of sunlight exposure and serotonin synthesis in the brain and bright light has been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of both seasonal and non-seasonal depression, as well as other depressive disorders. Thus, getting sufficient light on a daily basis could be another key to helping you balance your neurotransmitter levels and elevate your mood.
Bright lights affect neurotransmitter production in two distinct ways: by directly entering your eyes, and by falling on your bare skin. The second way has an indirect effect on neurotransmitters via vitamin D production and takes longer to have an effect than light directly entering the eyes. In addition, most sun blocks inherently block the essential ultraviolet (UV) rays that are needed to make vitamin D and stimulate neurotransmitter synthesis. Thus, if you wear sunblock you will not substantially increase neurotransmitter levels for the interaction on the skin; however, you will still benefit from having the light enter your eyes.
In the absence of direct sunlight or if you routinely wear sunblock, vitamin D supplementation can provide additional neurotransmitter enhancement, though it takes longer to see an effect. Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and almost everyone that doesn’t get at least 30 minutes of direct sunshine everyday should supplement with vitamin D.
The simplest way to get enough bright light is to spend at least an hour each day outdoors without sunblock. If this isn’t possible, you can purchase a light-therapy device. Just make sure that the device is ultraviolet (UV) light shielded, as overexposure to UV light increases your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. This, of course, excludes tanning beds and lamps, as they emit a considerable amount of UV light. Bright lights also shut down the production of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Because of this, you should use light therapy early in the day, and dim the lights at night to allow your body to make adequate melatonin.