Light Therapy Lamps

Bright Light Therapy Lamp Program

The Faculty of Engineering has three tablet-sized light therapy lamps (2 for the Waterloo campus and 1 for the Cambridge campus) available for use by any member of the Faculty of Engineering community.

Light therapy lamps are available for sign-out  from Mon-Fri, 8:30 am - 3:30 pm for 1 hour (I hour is the recommended usage per day).

To sign-out a lamp, please visit the following:

  • Waterloo campus: Undergraduate Office(E2 1772)
  • Cambridge campus: Main Office

Please read about Safe Usage and Potential Side Effects prior to booking your lamp.

desk lamp

What is bright light therapy?

Bright light therapy is a non-pharmaceutical approach that utilizes special full-spectrum wavelengths of light to mimic exposure to natural day light for a prescribed period of time per day (usually 1 hour). Light therapy has been shown to reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and winter blues by 35% or more. It is the primary approach to treating seasonal related mood concerns (Campbell, Miller, Woesner, 2017). Bright light therapy has also been shown increase energy levels and improve sleep (Sleep Foundation), as well as improve acne and a variety of other medical conditions.

Why is bright light therapy important?

The short answer is that many people feel better (more energetic, sleep better, improved mood) with daily exposure to light therapy lamps.

The longer answer is that over the past 5 years the number of post-secondary students in Canada with identified mental health disabilities has doubled (Ontario Universities, n.d.). According to the National College Health Assessment II (NCHA ll), 51.6% of Canadian students surveyed reported feeling so depressed they could not function,  and 68.9% reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. 65% of UWaterloo students surveyed said they felt tired and dragged out most days.

Sleep is a crucial component of academic success, mental health, and overall well-being. Inadequate sleep can result in lower grades as well as poor memory, attention and concentration, In addition, poor sleep is known to impact immune system functioning, increase risks of accidents, and impair decision making. Young adults need between 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep each night to function best. Only 11% of young adults receive 8.5 hours of sleep per night (Homewood Health, Sleep Foundation).

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the Winter Blues are mood disorders that occur primarily in the Fall and Winter months due to reduced exposure to sunlight. Those who spend long periods of time indoors during the summer months can also experience. Reduced exposure to natural light can result in low mood, sleep problems, fatigue, trouble concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and more (CAMH). Young adults are more at risk of experiencing symptoms of SAD than older adults. Engineering students spend long hours indoors studying and attending classes.

Bright light therapy lamps, when combined with other self-care and wellness activities, can help to improve well-being.

Safe Usage of Light Therapy Lamps

For safe use of the lights:

  • Avoid looking directly into the light. Point the light at you, but NOT into your eyes.
  • Sit slightly back (2-3 feet) from the light
  • Limit usage to 1 hour per day
  • Adjust brightness if needed

*NOTE: Please consult your physician prior to using light therapy lamps if you have any health conditions that involve the retina of the eye, diabetes, a history of skin cancer and systemic lupus erythematosus, bipolar disorder, or are using photosensitizing medications like lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine, anti-psychotics, or antibiotics.

Potential Side Effects of Light Therapy Lamps

Even though therapy lamps are generally safe, some people may experience eye strain, headaches, irritability and even insomnia or sleep disturbances. Side effects are usually mild and subside promptly.

If you experience any of the above while using the light therapy lamps, consider the following:

  • Use lamps earlier in the day, rather than close to when you would go to sleep.
  • Reduce the brightness of the lamp
  • Reduce the length of exposure
  • Increase the distance you sit from the lamp
  • If symptoms are significant or do not reduce with the above actions, avoid using lamps and consult your medical practitioner.