Compared to conventional approaches, light therapy glasses provide a more convenient and flexible way to receive light therapy. This can help with many health conditions involving sleep and circadian rhythms, but precaution is needed with any intervention. Learn how light therapy glasses can help and what the risks are.
Light therapy glasses are wearables that deliver light therapy directly into the eyes.
Light therapy glasses are a more convenient and flexible approach to light therapy than light boxes and lamps.
Light therapy can ease symptoms of depression, circadian rhythm disorders, jet lag, and insomnia.
Potential side effects of light therapy glasses include headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and eye irritation.
There are many options of light therapy glasses available in the market. Do research to ensure you choose the pair that best suits your needs.
What is light therapy?
Light therapy, also called phototherapy, uses artificial light to address health conditions such as insomnia, depression, or jet lag.
The principle behind light therapy is straightforward. Many behaviors and physiological processes in the body follow the same 24-hour cycle as the sun. The sleep-wake cycle is one example; that’s why people tend to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night.
Artificial light exposure, similar to sunlight, helps realign the individual’s circadian rhythms with the patterns of the sun.
During a light therapy session, special cells in the retina detect the light and send signals to a region in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN regulates the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
The perception of light suppresses the production of melatonin. As a result, the individuals feel more alert and energized.
Light therapy glasses for sleep
In the past, light therapy was delivered through light boxes or lamps. These early devices were relatively large and required the individual to sit or stay in front of them for a specific amount of time every day.
Over time, technological advancements led to the development of more portable devices, giving users more freedom to move around during treatment sessions.
Light therapy glasses are a wearable and portable form of light therapy. They typically incorporate small LED lights or other light sources that emit specific wavelengths, often on the blue or green spectrum.
These glasses are especially useful for those who may not have the time to sit in front of a traditional light box. They offer a convenient and flexible solution, since they allow individuals to engage in various activities while receiving the therapeutic benefits of light exposure.
Light therapy glasses are suggested to have similar effects to conventional light boxes. One study showed significant melatonin suppression during light stimulation with both devices.
Potential health benefits of light therapy glasses
Light therapy using light therapy glasses may help with various health issues, including insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, depression, and seasonal affective disorders.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which the person has difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Researchers thoroughly analyzed various studies and found that light therapy is effective in helping people with insomnia stay asleep. However, it didn't help them fall asleep faster, sleep longer, or improve the quality of their sleep. They suggest that more studies are needed to figure out these findings.
Circadian rhythm disorders
Circadian rhythm disorders happen when our internal sleep-wake rhythms get out of sync with the natural light-dark cycle.
One example of circadian rhythm disorder is delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSWPD). People with this condition wake up and go to bed too late. Since their internal circadian rhythms don’t match the external social demands, these individuals face many difficulties, such as a drop in performance at work or school, sleep deprivation, and mental health issues.
The treatment of DSWPD involves light therapy and implementing measures to improve sleep hygiene.
A thorough review of various studies showed that light therapy could benefit people with DSWPD. It helps them shift their sleep schedule to earlier times, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at more desirable times. Additionally, light therapy has been found to help them fall asleep more quickly and improve the overall quality of their sleep.
Depression and circadian rhythm disruption are closely related. People living with depression often experience a delay in melatonin release before bedtime. This can make it harder to fall asleep at conventional times.
The treatment of depression typically involves antidepressants, which can cause adverse effects and do not always achieve the expected outcomes. Light therapy has emerged as a therapeutic option with the potential to modify circadian phase-shift and aid in treating depression.
A systematic review found that light therapy effectively reduced depressive symptoms in adults. Clinicians also use light therapy to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs at about the same time every year.
It’s important to emphasize that conducting well-designed studies is essential to confirm whether light therapy glasses are effective for treating depression.
Jet lag occurs when people travel across time zones. It causes symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disruption, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Jet lag results from a misalignment between the individual’s circadian rhythms and that of the external physical environment. Light exposure to the eyes is a potential way to ease the symptoms of jet lag.
Possible side effects
Light therapy is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, but like any intervention, it may have side effects. Some reported side effects during the use of light therapy glasses include:
- Eye irritation
- Light bothersome to eyes
- Blurred vision
These side effects are minor and usually go away on their own. If you experience any of these symptoms while using light therapy glasses, talk to a healthcare professional.
Choosing the right light therapy glasses for you
There’s a variety of light therapy glasses available on the market, such as AYO, Re-timer, and Luminette. You should pick the one that best suits your needs.
There are a lot of things you can consider before choosing the best therapy glasses for you, for example:
- App integration. Some glasses can be connected to an app on your smartphone, allowing you to obtain customized recommendations concerning your circadian health.
- Session duration. The length of the light therapy session varies by manufacturer. Some recommend that you wear the glasses for 20 to 30 minutes, while others recommend sessions lasting up to 60 minutes.
- Design. Light therapy glasses come in various styles and sizes. Some are compact and lightweight, while others are a bit larger. Certain models are positioned above the eyes for a clear view, while others frame the eyes. Some even allow you to wear reading glasses while getting the therapy.
Light therapy may be an effective therapeutic option to address disruptions of sleep, mood, and circadian rhythms. Light therapy glasses provide a convenient alternative to using a light box for an extended period. They offer flexibility, allowing individuals to continue with their daily tasks while still benefiting from the therapy. Even though light therapy is considered safe, it's essential to take precautions. If you notice any unusual reactions or concerns, consult a doctor.
- Journal of Sleep Research. Light therapy in insomnia disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Sleep Science. Light therapy for the treatment of delayed sleep-wake phase disorder in adults: a systematic review.
- Journal of Pineal Research. Light emitting diodes can be used to phase delay the melatonin rhythm.
- Frontiers in Neuroscience. High circadian stimulus lighting therapy for depression: Meta-analysis of clinical trials.
- Sleep Medicine Reviews. What works for jetlag? A systematic review of non-pharmacological interventions.