College students use light therapy to battle seasonal depression

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – With snow on the horizon, it looks like the dark days of winter are nearly here — and it’s those darker days that cause some to feel seasonal blues.

A new light therapy initiative at the University of Iowa looks to battle the blues.

Students at Iowa can now check out what’s called a “light box” which allows them to get natural light at home.

“Winters here in Iowa can be very, very harsh, right? There no fun. I think these lights here you can use it in your spare time and it can help with seasonal depression because often times that gets misconstrued as the blues and sadness but it’s a real thing,” University of Iowa senior Micah Augusma said.

Augusma is the director of health and safety for the student government, and led the initiative to bring light therapy to campus.

Student government partnered with UI Student Health and Wellness and University Counseling Service to bring 40 light therapy lamps to campus. The boxes can be checked out by students for two weeks at a time.

Patrick Rossmann, a behavior health consultant for Student Health and Wellness, said dark, winter months can bring on seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

“A lot of the symptoms are lower energy, a kind of milder form of depression. It happens when there’s less natural light and so our bodies rhythm, and adjusting with that. It’s something that happens to many people,” Rossman said.

Rossman said light therapy can help offset that.

“These lights are different than just looking at a light bulb,” he said. “The light box mimics natural light and so it’s kind of giving your body the signals, those signs of that. So, the chemistry in your brain is saying ‘hey, I’m getting this light’.”

For best results, Rossman said the lamps should be used a half hour to an hour a day. He said the recommendation is that students sit six to 24 inches away from the light.

As a result, Rossman said students can see an uptick in energy and increased focus. It can also improve sleep.

“I think it’s something that is very subtle and it’s something that you can do 30 minutes to an hour per day and it will really help your mood and help you get more work done,” Augusma said.

The light therapy lamps cost $50 and was fully-funded by the student government.

Jalyn Souchek

Jalyn Souchek

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