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LIGHT THERAPY... FACT VS. FICTION
There are a lot of myths regarding light therapy that have been floating around for many years. There are also a lot of companies that don't care about selling you a quality product that meets your individual needs and are willing to bend (or even break) the truth to try to separate you from your money. Here we'll examine each of these myths and relate truthful information based upon clinical evidence, and reveal the outright falsehoods perpetuated by some other companies.
Myth #1: My doctor told me all I need to do is to replace all my existing light bulbs with full spectrum bulbs and that will alleviate my SAD symptoms.
Why this might sound plausible: SAD appears when people are not exposed to enough environmental sunlight. Sunlight has an even color distribution, which full spectrum lighting comes close to replicating. The initial studies on light therapy for SAD used full spectrum light fixtures.
The truth: Researchers have determined that lighting below 2,500 lux simply isn't bright enough to affect brain chemistry to the degree necessary to allow for the alleviation of SAD symptoms. Most homes have lighting below 500 lux, and well-lit offices generally have light levels between 500-700 lux. Replacing the bulbs in your existing fixtures with full spectrum bulbs does nothing to increase the light output; a 40-watt full spectrum fluorescent tube puts out the same amount of light as a 40-watt cool white fluorescent. Shop lights you'd get at your local hardware store or lighting store are designed to produce enough light to allow you to see what you're doing, not enough to affect brain chemistry. For that, special light fixtures, designed for increased light output, are necessary.
Myth #2: All light boxes that use full spectrum light emit harmful UV rays.
Why this might sound plausible: Some lighting companies use the term "full spectrum" to include the ultraviolet wavelengths.
The truth: The term "full spectrum" is loosely-defined, used differently by different companies within the lighting industry. But it always means light with a color temperature of at least 5,000° Kelvin. When using this term some companies include the ultraviolet wavelengths, while others, such as the SunBox Company, use it to mean the full visible part of the spectrum, which does not include the invisible UV wavelengths. Our full spectrum light boxes have an acrylic diffuser which eliminates UV wavelengths (independent lab report available upon request).
Myth #3: The larger the light box, the more effective it is.
Why this might sound plausible: A larger light box will "bathe" you in a field of light, which gives the illusion of more light reaching you.
The truth: We are unaware of any clinical evidence that a large light box is any more effective than a smaller box producing the same brightness and used properly. While a larger light box allows you some freedom of movement while using it (you can move from side to side during your light session and receive the same intensity of light in either position), this could be a potential drawback: if you think you can change your position during your light session, you might move further from it or closer to it, or might move too far to either side, all of which will change the light levels reaching your eyes, resulting in inconsistent light exposure during the session.
Myth #4: If a light box is not shielded for electromagnetic radiation, it isn't safe.
Why this might sound plausible: There's been a lot of speculation about the potential harmful effects of electromagnetic radiation... from power lines, computers, cell phones, etc. Magnetic ballasts in fluorescent fixtures are known to produce electromagnetic radiation.
The truth: While older fluorescent fixtures have magnetic ballasts that produce electromagnetic radiation in small amounts, the same is not true for current fixtures that use electronic ballasts.
Myth #5: A parabolic reflector is necessary to produce the proper amount of light in a light box.
Why this might sound plausible: A reflector increases light output by reflecting light from the back of the bulb out through the front of the light box.
The truth: Using a parabolic reflector to increase light output is an inexpensive shortcut, not the optimal solution. It minimizes the number of bulbs necessary to produce higher intensities of light. The drawback of reflectors is that the reflected light is dimmer than the direct light, resulting in uneven light distribution on the light box surface. This means there will be bright and dim spots, so moving your eyes even an inch in any direction could significantly impact the amount of light received.
Myth #6: If a light box that produces 10,000 lux gives results in 15-30 minutes per day, I can cut my treatment time in half by using a light box that produces 20,000 lux.
Why this might sound plausible: Research has shown that for intensities between 2,500 lux and 10,000 lux, double the intensity generally equates to half the treatment time.
The truth: Intensities higher than 10,000 lux have not
been studied for safety or efficacy. There is no clinical evidence that
than 10,000 lux are safe, so if the health of your eyes and your skin is
important to you, you should carefully weigh the risks
to your health of using untested technology for the sake of saving
10-15 minutes each day.
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The products and the claims made about specific products on or through this site have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. The information provided on this site is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem. You should consult with a healthcare professional if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.
LightBox 4 Therapy, a division of Organic
and Healthy, Inc.,
Ashland, Oregon, 541-708-0614
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