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Wellness: Light Therapy

A guide for wellness resources at St. Kate's and beyond.

Available fall break through spring break: light therapy lamps


The St. Kate's library now has 2 light therapy lamps that are available for use! Click the tabs above to see the specific directions for the lamp you're using. Below are some general directions that should be followed when using any light therapy lamp. 

  1. Light Therapy Lamps should be used early in the morning if possible. The later in the day they're used, the more likely they are to negatively effect your circadian rhythm. 
  2. Generally, the lamps should be placed an arm distance away from you. 
  3. The reccomended brightness for light therapy is 10,000 lux. If you're using a lamp at this brightness, it should only be used once a day for around 20 - 30 minutes. Lamps that are less than 10,000 lux should be used for longer. 
  4. Consistency is key with light therapy. Try to do it regularly, every day or every other day, at around the same time. You should start recognizing positive changes after 2 weeks of consistent usage. 
  5. Never stare directly in to the lamp! Ideally, you should be working on an assignment or doing something else while the light is directed towards you. Do not close your eyes either! Light therapy is only effective if you're seeing the light. It is not effective if the light is just touching your skin. 
  6. If you have photosensitivity or have had recent eye surgery, you should avoid using these lamps! 

The HappyLight has several ways to customize your experience.

  1. Make sure the power adapter is plugged in to the back of the HappyLight, then plug the light in to an outlet. 
  2. The farthest button to the left is a HappyHue color selector. This button lets you chose between three different hues of white light (warm white, medium white, and daylight). Each time you touch the button it will rotate to the next color. Chose which hue feels the most comfortable for you. 
  3. The middle button is the Brightness button. There are four different brightness levels for this lamp, 2,500 lux, 5,000 lux, 7,500 lux, and 10,000 lux. Press this button to cycle through the brightness options. 10,000 lux is the reccomended brightness level for light therapy lamps. If you find that 10,000 lux is to bright for you on your first session, work your way up to that brightness with multiple sessions.
  4. The third button, the button on the right, is a timer. To set the timer for a one-hour session, quickly touch the timer control. The illuminated ring will pulse once to indicate that the timer has been set. 20-30 minutes once a day is the reccomended time for light therapy if you're using the light at it's full brightness, 10,000 lux. 
  5. Return the lamp to the Circulation Desk near the library entrance when you're done.


The Carex Lamp is fairly simple and only has 2 modes, Therapy Mode and Ambient Mode

  1. Make sure the power adapter is plugged in to the back of the lamp, then plug the other end in to an outlet. 
  2. Place the lamp 12" - 14" away from you, or about an arms length away. 
  3. Make sure the lamp head is angled at about 15º from the vertical. To adjust the angle, press the silver button at the top of the arm while supporting the lamp head. Release the button at the desired angle. 
  4. The lamp is at a good height if your eyes line up in the center of the lamp. To adjust the height of the lamp press the lower silver button while supporting the lamp head. Lift or lower the lamp head to your desired height and then release the button. 
  5. For Therapy Mode, which emits 10,000 lux (the reccomended brightness), slide the switch on the side of the lamp UP. Do not use the lamp on this setting for more than 60 minutes. 
  6. For Ambient Mode, which emits 5,000 lux, slide the switch on the side of the lamp DOWN. 
  7. Return the lamp to the Circulation Desk near the library entrance when you're done. 


Risks of Light Therapy

Light Therapy has shown to be relatively safe. If you find that you're beginning to strain your eyes or that you're developing a headache, try increasing the distance between you and the lamp. Some individuals also report feeling overstimulated from Light Therapy. If you begin to feel this way, reduce your usage time to 15 minutes per session. 

A study conducted by Sit et al. (2007) found that women with Bipolar Disorder were more susceptible to rapid mood changes when Light Therapy was initiated in the morning. If you suffer from Bipolar Disorder, consult with your doctor before trying Light Therapy.

Light Therapy is not reccomended for individuals with photosensitivity.

Sit, D., Wisner, K. L., Hanusa, B. H., Stull, S., & Terman, M. (2007). Light therapy for bipolar disorder: a case series in women. Bipolar Disorders9(8), 918–927.


Seasonal Affective Disorder & Light Therapy

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, during the fall and winter months. According to John Hopkins Medicine, shorter winter days and less sunlight cause a chemical change in our brains that can result in S.A.D.  The darker days also increase the production of melatonin in our brains, making us sleepier, less motivated, irritable, and depressed. 

What is Light Therapy?

To put it simply, Light Therapy is the use of light to treat mental illness. This has proven to be an affective method of treatment for individuals struggling with S.A.D (Corliss, 2022). Individuals sit in front of a light box that emits 10,000 lux (a measure of light intensity) for around 20-30 minutes every morning. The light box tricks the brain in to thinking it's real sunlight, which can improve depression, sleep, and motivation. 

Corliss, J. (2022, October 28). Light therapy: Not just for seasonal depression? Harvard Health.

John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.) Seasonal Affective Disorder.


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