Light therapy is used to treat a variety of mood disorders and depression symptoms. It is believed that light affects the circadian rhythm of the body and reduces the levels of melatonin produced by the brain. This in turn reduces feelings of mental fatigue, sadness, melancholy, and postpartum depression.
The form of light used in light therapy mimics the spectrum of natural outdoor light. Essentially, it places the user in a simulated sunlight for a prescribed period of time each day, usually thirty to ninety minutes in the morning hours. Participants treated with light therapy usually report improvement in symptoms within a week of beginning treatment, and use of antidepressant medications is reduced in those patients.
Patients also generally report improvement in sleep patterns and less disruption in sleep schedules. This is likely due to the stabilization of melatonin production, allowing normal patterns to emerge wherein drowsiness occurs at night and not during daylight hours. Obviously, simply experiencing adequate sleep will in itself bring about improvement in symptoms of depression, as chronic fatigue usually adds to depression-inducing stress.
Light therapy is particularly helpful for those individuals who either cannot use chemical antidepressants, or those who simply choose not to. Patents residing in areas of the world where light is limited specifically benefit from the use of light therapy, as it simulates the natural pattern of light and darkness with which the human body most easily tunes itself. This simple and inexpensive therapy is an immensely helpful tool for depression sufferers.