Light therapy is an effective treatment for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Promising indications for light therapy include treatment of non-seasonal depression, depression in pregnancy and sleep disorders stemming from dysregulated circadian rhythms.\n\u201cThere are few effective treatments for bipolar depression. That\u2019s why we\u2019re exploring novel approaches such as light therapy,\u201d says Dorothy Sit, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, and a researcher at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, who is leading an ongoing study in the use of light therapy for treatment of bipolar depression. According to research, people with bipolar depression are especially sensitive to changes in outdoor ambient light and the seasons, and may have suicidal thoughts.\nThe onset of fall and winter can trigger symptoms similar to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), including:\n\nFatigue\nSluggishness\nDaytime sleepiness\nCarb cravings\nLoss of interest\nInability to experience pleasure\n\nAccording to Dr. Sit, light therapy is affordable. Light therapy should not be started without the guidance of a physician. While receiving light therapy it is critical that the patient is monitored closely by their physician. \u201cPatients typically start to feel better within two weeks and should gain the full antidepressant effect by six weeks.\u201d Patients with seasonal depression, SAD, or non-seasonal depression need 45 to 60 minutes.\nLight Therapy Safety\nWhile light therapy is generally safe, patients with bipolar depression also must be on a mood stabilizer or they\u2019ll be at risk for manic episodes, says Dr. Sit. Other possible side effects include headaches, eyestrain, irritation, agitation, and insomnia. These symptoms normally disappear following adjustments in the time and length of treatment.\nTo participate in the study, call 1-800-436-2461. For information on light boxes, visit the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website.