The Healing Power of Light

6 Healing Powers of Light

Light therapy is the application or manipulation of light in the treatment or prevention of common ailments, often by recreating more natural lighting conditions than we encounter in modern life. Phototherapy techniques are among the most clinically supported non-pharmacological (drug-free) treatments in medical science, advocated by proponents of both traditional and alternative medicine alike. Learn how to use light to live a healthier life!

1. Beat The Winter Blues
The most common form of light therapy is the use of bright white or blue light in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A 2006 study found that phototherapy and the antidepressant Fluoxetine both relieved winter depression in 63% of subjects, though the light therapy group reported significantly fewer side effects. A 2015 study found light therapy to be an effective treatment for 50% of patients with nonseasonal depression (compared to 29% of patients treated with the Fluoxetine).

2. Get Better Sleep
Blue wavelengths from standard indoor lighting can block production of the sleep hormone melatonin, triggering insomnia. The use of amber sleep lamps in the evening can help insomnia sufferers fall asleep over an hour earlier by normalizing melatonin production. A 2011 study found that “exposure to room light before bedtime resulted in a later melatonin onset in 99% of individuals and shortened melatonin duration by about 90 min.” A 2005 experiment demonstrated that application of even bright amber light (800 lux) had no negative effect on melatonin production.

3. Prevent and Alleviate Migraines
Red migraine glasses offer the only truly drug-free relief for migraine sufferers, particularly those suffering from ocular migraines, photophobic migraines, and migraines with visual auras. Because migraines are often triggered or exacerbated by blue wavelengths of light, blocking these wavelengths with specially tinted glasses for migraines has been proven to both prevent migraines (an average reduction of 6 migraines per month down to 1 migraine per month) and relieve migraine pain in as little as 10 seconds.

4. Clear Psoriasis
Phototherapy was officially approved by the FDA for treatment of Psoriasis in 1982. While most light therapy techniques utilize light in the visible spectrum, psoriasis phototherapy requires the use of potentially hazardous ultraviolet light. A meta-analysis of psoriasis studies found that UVA light fully cleared psoriasis lesions in 70% of patients, while the safer UVB light cleared psoriasis in 44% of patients. Unlike other forms of light therapy, psoriasis lamps require a prescription in the United States.

5. Prevent Jet Lag and Shift Disorder
Due to unusual sleep schedules and nighttime lighting environments, shift workers and flight attendants suffer from a host of interrelated health problems known collectively as Shift Work Disorder. In addition to sleep disruptions, a meta-analyses of 13 studies found that shift workers suffer from 48% increased risk of breast cancer and 50% higher rates of diabetes. Wearing amber night shift glasses 2 hours before bedtime allowed shift worker to fall asleep “34 minutes faster, improve sleep efficiency by 4.56%, and reduce their sleep fragmentation by 4.22%.”

6. Get Clearer Skin
In 2000, the British Association of Dermatologists published a meta-analysis of all available research on Acne Phototherapy. On average, a combination of red and blue light resulted in 50-60% improvement in moderate acne, with little to no side effects. The study further concluded that blue light was most effective at destroying the P. acnes bacteria, while red light was most effective at reducing inflammation. The researchers recommend 15 minutes of light per day on the affected areas.

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Bright Light Therapy May Treat Non-seasonal Depression

Bright light therapy, the application of blue or white visible light to the retina, has long been accepted as a first line treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter

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blues or winter depression. However, the use of bright light therapy for non-seasonal forms of depression has long been a hotly debated topic in the world of psychiatry.

A new study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tested the efficacy of bright light therapy against the antidepressant fluoxetine, as well as a placebo, in combating moderate non-seasonal depression. Surprisingly, the fluoxetine on its own fared no better than the placebo, with positive responses equaling 33.3% and 29% respectively. Bright light therapy was significantly more effective than either the placebo or fluoxetine treatments, with a success rate of 50%. A fourth group, who were treated with both fluoxetine and bright light therapy, had the greatest positive response, with a 75.9% response rate to the combined therapy. The authors conclude that “Bright light treatment, both as monotherapy and in combination with fluoxetine, was efficacious and well tolerated in the treatment of adults with nonseasonal MDD. The combination treatment had the most consistent effects.”

The study was conducted over the course of four years, using 122 patients who had been diagnosed with at least moderate depression. According to the authors, the study 8-week long trials were “randomized, double-blind, placebo- and sham-controlled.”

Bright light therapy is a safe and inexpensive home treatment. Read reviews of bright light therapy lamps here.

Sources:

Lam RW, Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, et al. Efficacy of Bright Light Treatment, Fluoxetine, and the Combination in Patients With Nonseasonal Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry.Published online November 18, 2015.

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5 Natural Acne Treatments (that are Scientifically Proven to Work)

  1. Light Therapy. You might notice your skin improving significantly after a trip to the beach. Multiple studies have found that UV radiation from sunlight can reduce moderate acne by up to 70% by killing acne causing bacteria and reducing skin inflammation. However, in the long term, UV radiation has the unfortunate side effects of skin damage aAcne Phototherapy Lightnd increased risk of skin cancer. Luckily, isolated red and blue light, which has none of the dangers of UV rays, has been demonstrated to reduce moderate acne by 50% to 60%. Research found that red light reduces inflammation while blue light effectively kills the P. acnes bacteria that cause acne. Read reviews of Acne Light Therapy lamps here.
  2. Wash your pillowcase weekly. Bacteria and oil from your skin and hair can build up on your pillowcase, exacerbating preexisting cases of acne. Wash your pillowcase at least once a week with a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent to see fast improvement in your skin.
  3. Green Tea Extract. A lotion of 2% green tea extract significantly reduced acne in two studies of adolescents and young adults with mild to moderate acne.
  4. Tea Tree Oil. Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the Australian tea tree. It has been used for centuries as a safe alternative treatment for acne and other skin disorders. In 1990, researchers studied 124 acne patients, treating half with 5% tea tree oil in a water-based gel and half with 5% benzoyl peroxide. The study found that, while the tea tree gel took slightly longer to produce results, it eventually reduced acne by the same percentage (40%) as Benzoyl Peroxide, with significantly fewer side effects. Tea tree oil should only be used topically.
  5. Rinse with cool water. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, cold water is actually better for acne prone skin than hot water. While hot water can irritate the skin and increase inflammation, cool water has the opposite effect, reducing overall redness over a period of 24 hours. Moreover, hot water over-dries the skin in the short term, causing a resultant increase in sebum (oil) production in the skin that can cause acne outbreaks.

 

Sources:

Bowe, Whitney. “Procedural Treatments for Acne.” Acne Vulgaris (2011): 208-17.

Kroll, Dorothy. “Natural Treatments for Acne.” Alternative and Complementary Therapies 2.2 (1996): 87-90.

Rawlings, Anthony V. “Emerging Acne Treatments.” Pathogenesis and Treatment of Acne and Rosacea (2014): 441-47.

Light Therapy Effective at Managing Night Eating Syndrome (NES)

Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a disorder in which an individual consumes over 25% of their daily caloric intake after their evening meal, particularly after awakening in the middle of the night. A new pilot study, treated 15 otherwise healthy adults who suffered from Night Eating

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Syndrome with bright light therapy as a means of curtailing nighttime awakenings and aberrant eating behavior.

The study exposed the subjects to 60 minutes of 10,000 lux light therapy lamps each morning for a period of 2 weeks. This bright light therapy schedule is already a common treatment for a variety of circadian disorders, particularly Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Delayed Sleep

Phase Syndrome. At the end of the trial, “significant reductions were found pre-to-post treatment in night eating symptomatology, mood disturbance, and sleep disturbance.”

The researchers note that, in addition to improvements in nighttime eating behavior, “statistically significant improvements were also noted for morning mood, morning anxiety, and evening anxiety ratings  from pre-to-post treatment.”

Though the pilot study was too small to reach a definitive conclusion, it does provide “preliminary support for the efficacy of [Bright Light Therapy] for the treatment of night eating syndrome.”

Read reviews of 10,000 lux light therapy lamps here.

 

Source:

McCune, Ashley M. and Jennifer D. Lundgren, “Bright light therapy for the treatment of night eating syndrome: A pilot study.” Psychiatry Research, Volume 229, Issues 1–2, 30 September 2015, Pages 577-579.

Treating Elderly Sleep Disorders with Bright Light Therapy

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Americans aged 65 and over have higher rates of chronic insomnia and poorer sleep quality than any other age demographic—with as many as 50% of elder individuals reporting sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorders among the elderly include “sleeping early, waking up early, a decrease in sleep duration, taking longer to fall asleep, frequently waking up at night, and sleeping in the daytime” (Akyar & Akdemir 2014). Many of these the problems results from our bodies’ decreased production of the sleep hormone melatonin as we age.

This natural decline in melatonin is often exacerbated by the sedentary, indoor lifestyles of many elderly individuals, factors that further contribute to circadian disturbances. Circadian sleep patterns are primarily regulated by exposure to bright light in the morning and the recession of light in the evening. However, many elderly individuals live in care facilities with unnaturally constant lighting throughout the day and evening. Many studies have suggested morning application of bright light therapy as a means of regulating the sleep patterns of those in elder care facilities.

A new study published in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing concludes that bright light therapy is a safe and effective means of improving sleep quality of elder individuals in nursing homes. In the study, twenty-four older adults who reported poor sleep quality were treated with a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp Review for a half hour each morning over the period of one month.

At the end of the study, global sleep quality scores (as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality

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Index) were found to be significantly higher than the pre-intervention scores. The scores for ‘daytime dysfunction’ and ‘sleep latency’ (time to fall asleep) saw the most improvement from the light therapy intervention.

The study concludes: “light therapy has, after continuous four-week half-hour 10,000 Lux interventions and at a four-week follow-up, an impact on the global sleep quality and its subcomponents, in particular the participants’ ‘daytime dysfunction’ and ‘sleep latency’ subcomponents. Also, those effects are beneficial and recommended for seniors, females, and those with diseases.” Most significantly, these global benefits to the sleep and well-being of elderly patients remained in effect up to one month after the end of the formal treatment.

Read reviews of 10,000 lux light therapy lamps here and reviews of dawn simulation lamps here.

 

Sources:

Akyar, I., & Akdemir, N. (2014). The effect of light therapy on the sleep quality of the elderly: An intervention study. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (Online), 31(2), 31-38.

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Is Your Cell Phone or Laptop Screen Keeping You Awake?

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Blue Light Can Cause Insomnia

A 2010 study confirmed that blue light in the evening, especially from cell phones and computer screens, mimics the wakefulness-inducing effects of sunlight, Our widespread use of blue-wavelength light is likely a major factor in both chronic and acute insomnia. Compare modernized societies like the United states, which suffer from insomnia rates as high as 44%, to existing hunter gatherer societies, which suffer from insomnia rates as low as 8%. Science suggests that this disparity is largely caused by nighttime use of electronics.

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White SAD Light

The solution to much insomnia and some mood disorders is to simply emulate the hunter-gather exposure to light. First thing in the morning, get outside in the sunlight or use a light therapy lamp that emulates sunlight. Bright light in the morning can shift your sleep schedule up to 90 minutes! Read our reviews of white light therapy lamps here. Once the sun has set for the day, try to limit your exposure to blue frequency lights like laptops and cell phone screens. Consider purchasing an amber lamp or amber book light and spend the last half hour of the night reading quietly. Amber light in the evening has been proven to shift sleep schedules an average of 1 hour earlier! If an amber lamp isn’t feasible, studies show that amber night shift glasses, which block sleep-disrupting blue wavelengths, are also effective at preventing insomnia.

Our regulation of the sleep hormone melatonin and the mood neurotransmitter serotonin are largely regulated by our exposure to light. Studies demonstrate that careful regulation of light—getting plenty of bright blue-wavelength light early morning and afternoon and limiting your nighttime light to red-frequency light—may also help alleviate some forms of depression, particularly those like Seasonal Affective Disorders or SAD that result directly from seasonal light variation.

In short, pay more attention to your early morning and late evening light exposure to sleep better and be happier!