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Using a Light Box when you have ME or CFS

ME and CFS

Many of the symptoms of ME are similar to those of S.A.D. and sufferers often feel worse during the winter months. The most debilitating of these are the lethargy, tiredness and often sleep problems which leave it difficult for people to cope with fighting the M.E. These are the areas where a light box can help.

While the overall success rate is not as high as with just S.A.D. there have been good reports of people using the light box with this condition. However, do read the section on how to choose a light box and when to use it (below) as you need to be more careful with its use.

How to choose a light box

When choosing as light box if at all possible it is best to choose a ‘switchable’ one. We recommend choosing one of the Diamond light boxes that have a treatment time of 30 minutes. The reason for this is that you can build up the time you use it gradually. 

When to use a light box

Use it as early as possible when you get up in the morning, even if this is not very early because of feeling so tired. Do not try to use it too much too quickly. 

It can also be useful to keep a rudimentary diary, just a sheet of A4 paper will do with the date, the amount of time you used the light box and how you felt.  If you overdo it one day just look back and choose a time that you were comfortable with and start slowly again.  

  • Always start by using the light box slowly, so as to prevent a relapse from overtaxing your system.
  • Place the light box on a stable surface about face height if possible, and at an arm's distance away.  It should be at a slight angle – you should not look directly at the light box, but the light must be able to enter the eye.
  • If you have one of the models with the extra switch, then start by using one lamp for about 10 minutes for the first couple of days.  If you have a light box with only one switch then increase the distance you are away from it and turn it to a steeper angle so that you do not get so much light. 
  • Gradually increase the amount of time to about half an hour.
  • When you have reached 30 minutes with one lamp, use two lamps for 10 minutes, and build up to the ½ hour treatment.  Repeat until you can use all three lamps for half an hour.  If you are using a light box without the extra switches, decrease the distance you are sitting from your light box, and turn it towards you to get more light.
  • If you feel no side effects, such as a mild headache or over stimulation when you start using your light box then your can build up the time more quickly. Just be careful not to take too much treatment during the first few days, or if you have stopped using the light box for any reason then you will have to build the time up slowly again.

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