Light therapy boxes – can you help?

February 24, 2011


One of our members, whose energy levels always seem to dip during the dark days of winter, is considering trying a light box.

Feedback from anyone who has used a light box would be appreciated – along with details of any product which is recommended.

Please leave a message in the comment facility here or email the MEA at: meconnect@meassociation.org.uk

14 thoughts on “Light therapy boxes – can you help?”

  1. I have a Lumie visor delux. I’ve just had a look on their site, and I can’t see it there at the moment. It’s good because it’s not as bright as other light boxes, plus, it’s portable. It can be a strange thing to get used too, and I don’t know how easy it would be to use light therapy as a solution if you have photophobia, [sensitivity to bright light,] but Lumie do a thirty day trial, where you can return for a full refund at any time. Light boxes are quite expensive, but if you can find one that works for you, in my opinion, they’re well worth every penny. Good luck!

  2. We’ve received this detailed reply by email:

    Your news section today requests feedback from anyone who has used a light therapy box, to pass on to one of your members who is considering one.

    I have had diagnosed M.E. since early 2005 and over the past few years have used a light box over the winter. I had the impression that it helped a bit, although not a lot; slightly brighter but not much other effect, I still had my dreadful winter ‘dip’.

    However this year I decided to try my box from much earlier, towards the end of October, and am still using it. I have also spent a full 30 minutes each morning in front of it, as opposed to the previous 15-20 minutes. This has certainly noticeably helped me: my sleep, which always goes completely to pot by the end of December, has been far better, with consequent positive knock-on effects; my mood has been considerably better; and I’ve felt more ‘with it’ during the day. There were three days when I wasn’t able to use the box, as I was not at home and it’s not very portable, and I noticed a negative difference.

    I bought my box from a Cambridgeshire company, Lumie. I had good service and would recommend them. They can be contacted as follows:

    website http://www.lumie.com
    by email info@lumie.com
    by phone 01954 780 500

    The box I have is no longer manufactured, however their current Arabica model (just under £100) would seem to be comparable.

    One last tip. It’s not just hype, the user really does have to sit close enough to the box, and for long enough, to get the full effects. And, for me, mornings are the best time to use; sets me up for the day.

    Hope this may be helpful to your member.

    Kind regards

  3. And also this helpful response from a gentleman who follows us on Twitter:

    I don’t have ME (My wife does, hence why I follow the MEA on twitter and saw your post about light boxes) however I do suffer low energy levels in the winter and use a light box to help deal with these things. I have it set up by my computer and turn it on during the day to help give me a boost when it is dark outside.

    That said I can’t say I find that it has a huge effect and it cost quite a lot of money for what is basically a large fluorescent tube.

    My other strategy, which is much cheaper, was to buy 100 watt equivalent ‘daylight’ wavelength light bulbs from Homebase and put them in my bedroom. They are essentially the same thing that is in a light box, but much less powerful. The way that I use them is that if I open my curtains and it is grey and dreary outside then I turn on the lights to ‘top it up’ a bit. Again I don’t think this has a massive effect, but it does help.

    The light from both a light box and daylight type light bulbs looks and feels natural with open curtains and daylight, whether sunny or cloudy, coming in, but it isn’t a substitute for direct sunlight and I find that by far the most effective thing for my energy levels is to give spending time in the sun during the winter priority. That may mean putting on a thick coat and going outside to drink my tea or do some reading on a cold but sunny day, however it also means not having too strict a time schedule so that I can take time off when the sun is out to enjoy it.

    No artificial light has the same strength or effectiveness of direct sunlight in my experience, either on my mood or my energy levels.

  4. An email from ‘Down Under’:

    I was on a 8 week trial with a light box back in 2004, and to me it was the worst thing ive had to endure, they gave me extreme headaches, from the brightness of the box, as i had to have it only 1 meter away from my face, and also for 1 hour every day for the 8 weeks.

    But i never lasted the 8 weeks, even after i reported the really bad headaches to the Phof, i was just told to endure them, as the headaches would go away, but even after 4 weeks, i was living on pain killers to maintain the trial with the light box.

    Then on the 6th week i made up my mind, that all this pain and suffering wasn’t worth the headaches, and informed the sleep center, who basically told me i was a quitter, so i told them, that unlessthey provided adequate pain control for the headaches, i wasn’t going to put up with the pain any long, and i returned the box, 2 weeks early.

    When it was time to fill out the questionnaire, the boxes were only of a yes and no tick type, so there was no way to say that it had any effect on me, so all the boxes got a tick in the no boxes.

    And it was many weeks after that the headaches remained, and my CFS & FM Specialists who did not offer the light boxes, were not impressed with the sleep center here in Adelaide, and they both made formal complaints, that the light boxes should have been taken away when the severe headaches were first reported, and it was may weeks before the headaches finally subsides away to nothing.

    So if you are planing to use a light box, by all means give it a go, as everyone of us is different, but if you start to get headaches, then stop using the light box immediately, and inform the provider of the pain and any discomfort you are experiencing, as you should notexperience any pain what so ever, so if you do experience any pain or discomfort from the light box, please discontinue the use, and reportthe symptoms straight away.

    Regards.

    Colin.

  5. From Peter Kemp:

    Dear MEA,

    I frequently use a light box especially on overcast days. Personally, I don’t find it necessary to sit as close as is recommended in the instructions but will keep the light on for perhaps an hour which is longer than usually specified. I find it convenient to position the light where it is around 30degs off the centre of my view when watching TV or reading (i.e., not way over in periferal vision). I feel better after using the light. I use a Philips ‘Bright Light’ which it seems is no longer available. The fairly transluscent cover creates a large area of light. I’ve seen ones with transparent covers (you can see the tubes) and found these unpleasantly intense. The boxes are expensive but worth the cost if they help. The problem is if they don’t help it could be a waste of money, so borrowing one to try it out first might be a sensible precaution.

    Best Wishes,
    Peter Kemp

  6. I use a Lifemax light pod. My brother bought it for me, he had read somewhere that it may be helpful. I use it for 30 mins each day. I have been using it for just over a year now and I use it all year round, but then I do live in Scotland:) I have found it makes a difference. I use it in the morning. I should mention that I don’t suffer any light sensitivity, so that has not been a problem. It is quite small and you can chose 2 levels of light. It costs £47.75 on Amazon at the moment (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lifemax-Light-Portable-Simulated-Daylight/dp/B002MRS5OW).

  7. From Gail Kansky, National CFIDS Foundation, Inc, of Needham, Massachusetts:

    We have several members who were misdiagnosed with SAD before they worsened a great deal and got correctly diagnosed with “CFS”. They all bought the light boxes and most dutifully spent time using them. None improved with that therapy.

    Gail Kansky
    President, National CFIDS Foundation, Inc.

  8. I am housebound so don’t get much sun and was fed up always getting worse around Dec/Jan so I bought a litepod (full spectrum lighting). It’s relatively small and portable and cost £110 from Amazon. I use it in the morning, keep it about arms length and have it on for an hour or two, just until I get out of bed. I find it has helped with my sleep and although I have had my usual winter dip it hasn’t been as bad this time. However, this may just be because I am slowly getting better.

    http://www.sad.org.uk have a list of recommended light boxes and you can also hire one before you buy at http://www.sad-lighthire.co.uk.

  9. I’m another person who couldn’t stand the brightness of the light in a lightbox. I had a loan of one, thankfully so had not spent any money. I was extremely disappointed

  10. I was given a “Bright Box” a few years ago (quite expensive I believe) and used it regularly for a while.

    It didn’t do me any harm, but didn’t do any noticeable good either.

  11. I have ME, and in the early days was very sensitive to bright light, so couldn’t even think about using one of these light boxes. My main problem was getting up in the morning as I had just enough energy to go to work and drive … sat down all day. I invested in a sunrise clock which fades in and out ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lumie-Bodyclock-Advanced-Wake-Up-Variable/dp/B000WE54B4/ref=pd_sxp_grid_i_0_2 ) A few bad reviews on amazon about it but it works well for me, still takes me awhile to get out but feels a lot easier. It can be used as a sunset clock too. I think I get a lot of light from the PC that I seem to be on quite a bit each day although sometimes can be a bit too bright so I wear some yellow glasses ( http://www.kontrolsports.co.uk/product_details.asp?item=15&name=%20Kontrol%20Gelshock%20Yellow ) to help cut the glare down and the yellow brightens all the greys of winter up and I find raises ones spirit if worn for a couple of hours a day. It has been a long dull winter this one and make sure you top up with Vit D that is lost with lack of sunlight.

    1. Bright light boxes are not designed to encourage vitamin D production. Those lamps are a different type of light that emits UVB light rays & you don’t shine them near your eyes.. only on your bare skin. See http://www.vitamindcouncil.org for info on vitamin D production. You still need to take vitamin D supplements if you are vit D deficient, or go into the sun, or use a Sperti Vitamin D lamp.

  12. Message from Sharon, whose original inquiry led to this discussion:

    A big thank you to everyone who took the trouble to respond to the question about the use of light boxes. I have invested in a Phillips HF3330 goLITE BLU Energy Light and will report back on developments. We are 5 days and so far so good. The blue light is gentle on the eyes and it seems to be beneficial that you cannot see any light bulbs glaring out. Will keep you posted.

    Thanks again

    Sharon.

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