Free light therapy at UNH for winter blues

Free Light Therapy 

Appointments with the light therapy lamps are free and available to the UNH community (students, UNH employees, and dependents over the age of 18).

Make An Appointment  

  • Call (603) 862-3823
  • Visit Health Services, room 249 (second floor)
  • Online

STUDENTS: Although a diagnosis is not required to use light therapy at Health Services, we encourage you to make an appointment with a Health Services clinician by calling (603) 862-2856 or a counselor at the UNH Counseling Center if you feel you are struggling with winter blues. 

Appointment Recommendations 

  • Daily sessions ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours. However, most sessions last 20-30 minutes but can be built up over time. 
  • Not using cell phones or other electronic devices during the treatment, it is supposed to be relaxing! 
  • For most people, light therapy is best used in the morning, after first waking up.

Additional educational information about light therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder will be provided at your appointment.

Please Note: The most effective combination of intensity, duration, and timing varies from person to person, your medical or mental health provider can assist in guiding making appropriate adjustments.

About Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)


Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder...

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), also known as "winter depression" or "winter blues" is a pattern of seasonal depression, occurring at the same time each year beginning in late fall or early winter months and ending in spring.

Symptoms of S.A.D. include:

  • Increased sadness
  • Higher irritability
  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased appetite including craving of carbohydrates
  • Increased weight
  • Increased sleep, lower quality of rest
  • Lack of energy
  • Problems concentrating
  • Social and interpersonal strain
  • Menstrual difficulties

Physicians, nurse practitioners, and mental health providers can diagnose S.A.D., based on criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association. For an official diagnosis, you can make an appointment with a clinician at Health Services or a Counselor at the Counseling Center.

About Light Therapy 

Light therapy or exposure to light, is an effective treatment and is usually administered using a light box. Light boxes are made of a set of fluorescent bulbs or tubes that are covered with a plastic screen that helps block out potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause cataracts and skin problems. Depending on how severely a person is affected, dietary changes, regular exercise, psychotherapy and the use of antidepressant medications can be effective, when used in conjunction with light therapy.

Light therapy is very easy to use. You sit directly in front of the light box (about 23 inches is optimal) with your eyes open. You can read, write, do homework or just relax. The light box should sit at eye level at an angle to provide the most comfort and decrease glare. Most studies show that about 75% of individuals who experience S.A.D. feel improvement when using light therapy within a couple days to a few weeks. If a person doesn’t see improvement within a few weeks, antidepressants or psychotherapy may help.

What else can I do to take care of myself and increase the effectiveness of the lamps?

  • Take daily walks outside
  • Increase aerobic exercise particularly under bright lights
  • Manage your stress
  • Eat healthy
  • Avoid exposure to bright light in the late evening, since this might shift timing of your sleep period

Side effects of light therapy may include:

  • Irritability
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Skin irritation (some medication can cause light sensitivity)
  • Dry eyes
  • Insomnia

Reducing the length of daily treatment or sitting further away from the light usually eliminates such effects. There is no research that shows exposure to light boxes can harm the retina or cause or accelerate eye disease.

Additional Resources