Light therapy (full-spectrum lighting) for health?

  Tags: health   full spectrum   light therapy   sun tanning


Wikipedia references
Light therapy has been touted as treatment for various conditions such as sleep disorders, acne, seasonal affective disorder and other psychological disorders. However, there are some who claim that light therapy is marketing hype pitched by so-called "full-spectrum" light manufacturers and may even cause damage from harmful ultraviolet rays.

This debate asks the question, "Does light therapy work?"

Natural vs Household Lights

In light therapy, special full-spectrum lights are used to emit a type and intensity of light that typical household lights do not emit.[1]

Arguments For

Yes, light therapy does work

Many mental health providers consider light therapy as the main treatment for seasonal affective disorder.[1]

Light therapy has been used in over 15 medical centers and clinics around the world with success. Under treatment, the patients improve within a week and symptoms return when the lights are withdrawn.[2]

A study commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association and led by a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has found that light therapy effectively treats mood disorders, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other depressive disorders.[3]

Until the last 1930's, sun therapy (or heliotherapy) by sunbathing and UV exposure was one of the most effective treatments for diseases such as lupus, eczema, acne, herpes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, cystics, anemia, colitis, kidney problems, and others.[5] In 1938, penicillin was discovered and the pharmaceutical industry was born and sun therapy was regarded as "medical quackery".[5]

Arguments Against

No, light therapy does not work

The FDA has not approved light therapy as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder or other conditions.[1]

Research & Studies

In one study, 59% of patients discontinued use of light therapy due to ineffectiveness and inconvenience.[4] In another study, light treatment was ineffective as an antioxidant therapy in chronic diabetes.[6]


 1  Light therapy: Why it's done Fetched Sept 25, 2009 Mayo Clinic Staff (Mayoclinic.com)
 2  Bright light therapy Fetched Sept 25, 2009 Columbia.edu
 3  Study shows light therapy to effectively treat mood disorders, including SAD Apr 10, 2005 Lang, Leslie H (MedicalNewsToday.com)
 4  Prevention of Winter Depression Sept 23, 2009 Dr. Broek, Walter, PhD (ShockMd.com)
 5  Full spectrum lighting Fetched Sept 25, 2009 Webber, Larry (ecolivingcenter.com)
 6  Effects of low-level light therapy on hepatic antioxidant defense in acute and chronic diabetic rats Fetched Sept 25, 2009 J, Lim (National Institutes of Health)

User Comments & Opinion


1 Voted Yes

profile pic
I think it does work, but I prefer a little bit of natural sunlight everyday. Just seems warmer and nicer. - jennyhooah (twitter) 0

1 Voted No

profile pic
The human eye only picks up 3 main colours: red, green and blue. It is more sensitive to red than any other colours. The visible light spectrum has a very low effect on human skin due to evolution so there is not much point exposing these colours. Full-spectrum may feel better for you because of the infra-red warming your skin and the ultraviolet cooking your skin. The ultraviolet may break down certain 'harmful' substances in the skin. If anything just sunbathe every now and then, it is much cheaper then buying a full-spectrum emitting lamp. - _fraz_ (twitter) vote up image vote down image +1
Vote "Yes" Comment:
* Note: Your comment will be tweeted.
Vote "No" Comment:
* Note: Your comment will be tweeted.
Recent Changes   dot   Latest Comments   dot   63 Total Users   dot   260 Total Debates since Aug '09