When I set out to build the light-box, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision on december the 23rd. And let me tell you, buying something at IKEA on that day gives you a disorder all on it's own. I did not have much time for research, so I read a couple of webpages and set off. Now that I have a bit more time, I searched and found more information; here is a quick summary:
- Light therapy has been shown effective in numerous clinical trials since the 1980s (Lewy et al. 1982, Rosenthal et al. 1984 being the first)
- According to most studies, 5000 lux-hours/day give the best clinical response, 10000 lux for 30 minutes is most commonly used in practice. Note that I am talking about lux here, i.e. luminous flux, or lumen per square meter. The luminosity of light bulbs is given in lumen, which is the total light output in all directions. When building your lightbox you want to focus that in the direction of your patient. I used aluminium foil as a reflector, as a few commenters have rightly pointed out, a flat white coat of paint would have been more efficient (and would probably look better). Something to bear in mind for the lightbox Mark II.
- Light colour: Numerous studies have been done concerning which colour of light to use (Brainard et al. 1990, Lam et al. 1991 and 1992, Oren et al. 1991, Steward et al. 1991). Some found that green light was better than red one, and white light superior to yellow light, while others found no difference in efficacity. All agree however, that all light colours do have an effect. I went with soft white light bulbs, because I wanted to be sure to avoid UV.
- UV: There was a series of studies by Lam et al. (1991 and 1992) that first reported that white light with UV was superior to white light only, but a follow-up study by the same guy with a larger group of subjects found no difference. I think it is better to avoid shining too much UV into your eyes.
- Cost: A commenter asked me about the total cost of the project. I did not keep my receipts, but this is more or less what I paid (Sister, if you are reading this - skip the next paragraph!):
*) 10 23W Philips CFL spiral light-bulbs: 80 Euro
*) IKEA Mackis box woth lid: 20 Euro, but since this is a set of three boxes, you have the two smaller ones left over
*) 10 bulb holders, switch and cable: about 20 Euro
*) Aluminium foil, wood and construction glue: Free because filched from my parents
Which gives a total cost of about a 120 Euros.
Seasonal affective disorder and beyond light treatment for SAD and non-SAD conditions: Light Treatment for Sad and Non-Sad Conditions
By Raymond W. Lam
Published by American Psychiatric Pub, 1998
ISBN 0880488670, 9780880488679
Here are the relevant pages for your perusal (thanks, google book search!):
Brainard GC, Sherry D, Skwerer RG, et al.; J Affect Disord 20:209-216,1990
Lam RW, Buchanan A, Clark CM, Remick RA; J Clin Psychiatry 52:213-216, 1991
Lam RW, Buchanan A, Mador JA et al; J Affect Disord 24:237-243, 1992
Lewy AJ, Kern HA, Rosenthal NE, et al.; Am J psychiatry 139:1496-1498, 1982
Oren DA, Brainard GC, Johnston SH, et al.; AM J Psychiatry 148:509-511,1991
Rosenthal NE, Sack DA, Gillin C, et al.; Arch Gen Psychiatry 41:72-80,1984
Steward KT, Gaddy JR, Byrne B, et al.; Psychiatry Res 38:261-270,1991