Some relief from symptoms is generally experienced within four days of beginning treatment, and about half of those treated experience significant improvement after one week. Treatment must continue throughout the winter, however, since symptoms are likely to return if light exposure decreases or stops.

Unfortunately, some people experience side effects like eyestrain, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. But, generally, an adjustment in the intensity of the light or the frequency and timing of exposure will help.

Experts do recommend that people considering light therapy see an eye care professional as well as a medical or mental health professional before beginning treatment.

A light box certainly may help. A vacation in the tropics every February could help as well. Find a hot rock to rest on beneath sunny blue skies with the sound of waves lapping on the shore during the last two weeks of February, and the month will feel short again. If you time your return for March, you won’t have long to wait for the appearance of crocuses to keep you going.

For most of us, that’s only a fantasy. Maybe if we put on a CD of ocean sounds, look at pictures of gorgeous ocean beaches, and sip lemonade as we sit in front of a light box for a few hours, our sunshine-deprived systems will at least get the idea.


Lee, T.M.C., Chen, E.Y.H., Chan, C.C.H., Paterson, J.G., Janzen, H.L., & Blashko, C.A. (1998). Seasonal affective disorder. Clinical Psychology: Science & Practice, 5(3), 275-290.

Sato, T. (1997). Seasonal affective disorder and phototherapy: A critical review. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 28(2), 164-169.


Banishing the Blues, by Bruce Charles Barr (Seattle, The Indoor Sun Shoppe, 2000).

Don’t Be Sad: Fighting the Winter Blues—Your Guide to Conquering Seasonal Affective Disorder, by Celeste A. Peters (Calgary, Script Publishing, 1994/Paperback 1995).

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond: Light Treatment for SAD and Non-SAD Conditions, edited by Raymond W. Lam (Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, 1998).

Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder—What It is and How to Overcome It, by Norman E. Rosenthal (New York, Guilford Press, 1993/Revised 1998).