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NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell

Ask the Experts

Question:

I was just wondering what your studies have shown on the application and effectiveness of broad vs. full spectrum light box sources for bright light therapy solutions. From what I have read, it looks like full spectrum might be the way to go as long as the light source is radiation sheilded and grounded. What do you think?

Answered by: Michael Terman

We moved away from use of full-spectrum light more than 10 years ago, and we recommend against it! Full-spectrum lamps not produce antidpressant effects greater than broad spectrum lamps.

At the high intensities used therapeutically, full-spectrum lamps boost unwanted short-wavelength radiation including unhealthful UV, which can cause immediate skin damage (redness, puffiness) in sensitive individuals and which pose a long-term cumulative hazard both to the skin and eyes.

Furthermore, such lamps produce less total light per watt (that is, they are electrically inefficient) and are far more expensive than broad spectrum alternatives. The light sources used in our clinical trials screen out UV radiation and are far more comfortable for treatment at high intensity (10,000 lux).