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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