Light Therapy May Boost Men's Interest in Sex

Medically Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD on September 19, 2016

Sept. 19, 2016 – Exposure to bright light may increase men's testosterone levels and could lead to greater sexual satisfaction, according to a study.

Italian scientists say that using a light box, which some people use to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), could improve the sex lives of men with low sexual desire.

Seasonal Influences

Previous studies have noted that sexual interest changes according to the seasons, suggesting that light levels may contribute to sexual desire.

This led scientists at the University of Siena in Italy to test sexual and psychological responses to bright light.

They recruited 38 men who were being treated for lacking interest in sex. Each man was evaluated for the severity of his symptoms and had his testosterone levels measured.

All the participants were asked to sit in front of a light box for 30 minutes each morning. One group sat in front of the bright light, and the other sat in front of a box that gave off much less light.

Higher Sexual Satisfaction Scores

After 2 weeks, the researchers retested the volunteers for sexual satisfaction and testosterone levels.

Andrea Fagiolini, MD, who led the research, says they found “fairly significant differences” between those who received the active light treatment and those who didn’t.

Before treatment, both groups averaged a sexual satisfaction score of 2 out of 10. Afterward, the group exposed to the bright light reported scores of around 6.3, Fagiolini says. The other group showed an average score of around 2.7 after treatment.

The researchers also found that testosterone levels increased in the men who had been given active light treatment.

"The increased levels of testosterone explain the greater reported sexual satisfaction,” Fagiolini says. “In the northern hemisphere, the body’s testosterone production naturally declines from November through April, and then rises steadily through the spring and summer with a peak in October. You see the effect of this in reproductive rates, with the month of June showing the highest rate of conception. The use of the light box really mimics what nature does."

The study is being presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Vienna. The results have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal and should be treated with caution.

Eduard Vieta, PhD, says that if light therapy does work, it would probably be better tolerated than drugs. But he adds that the results need to be verified in larger studies to makes sure the therapy does work and to determine how long the results last before it can be used.

Show Sources


European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference, Vienna, Sept. 17-26, 2016.

News release, European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Eduard Vieta, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, and director, Bipolar Disorders Program, Hospital Clinic at the University of Barcelona.

Andrea Fagiolini, MD, director of the Department of Mental Health and School of Specialization in Psychiatry, University of Siena, Italy.

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