People all over the world suffer from sleep problems, and there are many different sleep treatments out there to help. One of them is a newer therapy known as red light therapy. In this article, we will discuss the potential benefits of red light therapy for sleep, as well as how to use it at home safely.
Red light therapy is non-invasive and uses light waves to stimulate cellular function.
It may help regulate circadian rhythms and melatonin production.
Various devices are available for red light therapy at home, offering convenience and accessibility.
Red light therapy could help with sleep issues such as insomnia and jet lag.
Red light therapy is safe when used as directed.
Red light therapy for sleep
is a type of therapy that is non-invasive and uses non-ionizing radiation. The lighting helps stimulate cells and tissue and does not cause damage to DNA. It has been shown to improve health, skin, and pain levels, and improve muscle growth. It is used widely in dermatology and aesthetic offices for skin use.
It uses photobiomodulation, a process that stimulates cells. During photobiomodulation cells absorb light and causes an increase in energy production in a specific part of the cell called mitochondria.
When it comes to sleep, red light therapy needs more research. There are theories that it works by increasing the production of melatonin to enhance sleep, but studies so far are not conclusive. It also is known to reduce inflammation which can also help in sleeping by making people feel more comfortable.
At-home red light therapy devices
Several devices are available for red light therapy at home with different sizes and price ranges. Depending on the device they can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. They come in small handheld devices and larger full-body panels.
There are two types of red light therapies that people can use:
- Near-infrared light therapy (NIR)
- Far-infrared light therapy (FIR)
NIR has a wavelength of 600 to 900 nanometers and FIR has a wavelength of 900 to 1,500 nanometers.
FIR therapy is better for skin conditions and wound healing and NIR can penetrate deeper, impacting muscle, bone, and even the brain. NIR is suspected to be more effective for sleep than FIR light.
Benefits of red light therapy
Red light therapy has a multitude of potential benefits. These include skin rejuvenation, pain relief, and decreased inflammation. Red light therapy also has beneficial qualities for sleep as well. Red light therapy may have several benefits for sleep:
- Circadian rhythm regulation. Exposure to red light is thought to help regulate the body's circadian rhythms promoting better sleep-wake cycles.
- Melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps people fall asleep and red light therapy is thought to increase melatonin production.
- Insomnia management. Individuals with insomnia may find relief through red light therapy. Its potential to reduce anxiety, inflammation, and pain could contribute to improved sleep in these cases.
- Jet lag relief. Traveling across time zones can disrupt circadian rhythms. Red light therapy might help the body adjust more quickly to new time zones, alleviating jet lag symptoms.
- Reduced effects of blue light exposure. Traditional indoor lighting and electronic devices emit blue light, which can interfere with melatonin production. Using red light therapy in the evening could help counteract this effect and promote better sleep.
Is at-home red light therapy safe?
Using red light therapy at home is considered safe and has little risks. It does not produce the same cancer risks as ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When using any device it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Even though it is considered safe, some risks to be aware of include :
- Eye strain. As mentioned earlier, bright red light can strain the eyes. Protective goggles can mitigate this risk.
- Skin sensitivity. Some individuals may experience skin sensitivity or irritation after red light therapy sessions. If this occurs, reduce the session duration or frequency.
- Interaction with medications. Certain medications and medical conditions could interact with red light therapy. Consult a healthcare professional before starting if you're taking any medications or have health concerns.
- Burn risk. Being too close or coming into contact with the light can lead to burns or skin damage.
Tips for how to use red light therapy
Using red light therapy seems simple enough, but there are a few things you should consider before starting. Some of these things include:
- Timing. For sleep, use it a couple of hours before bed. This will help to help enhance the body's circadian rhythm cycles.
- Consistency. Like any therapy, consistency is key. Incorporate red light therapy into your routine regularly for the best results.
- Eye protection. Some red light therapy devices emit bright light that can strain the eyes. Use protective goggles specifically designed for red light therapy sessions.
- Distance. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for optimal distance from the device. Being too close or too far could impact the therapy's effectiveness.
- Duration. Begin therapy with short sessions and work you way up to 20 minutes.
Red light therapy may be helpful for improving sleep quality, it improves the body's circadian rhythms, melatonin production, and relaxation. While the therapy may offer potential benefits, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness and safety.
- BBA Clinical. Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders.
- Journal of Athletic Training. Red Light and the Sleep Quality and Endurance Performance of Chinese Female Basketball Players.
- Chronobiology International. Systematic review of light exposure impact on human circadian rhythm.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Color of the Light Affects the Circadian Rhythms.
- Nature and Science of Sleep. Effects of red light on sleep inertia.
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- Women in Optics and Photonics in India. Visual red-light stimulation for improving sleep quality in older adults.
- Medical Hypotheses. Melatonin as a principal component of red light therapy.