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What is Light Therapy For Sleep?
The use of a Light Therapy Box is a popular treatment for many sleep disorders such as-
- Delayed sleep phase disorder
- Advanced sleep phase disorder
- Jet Lag
- Always sleeping disorder
- Sleep deprivation
The great thing about Light Therapy is that you don’t have to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder to benefit from its effectiveness. Light therapy can help you stay alert throughout the day, aid your sleep at night & help you wake up naturally feeling refreshed. To really understand it may be beneficial to learn a little about Circadian Rhythm. We cover this in more detail in another blog, but for a quick recap, this is what it is.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
Circadian rhythm is basically an inner clock running in the background of your brain. It cycles between sleepiness & alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
Most adults will feel the biggest drop in energy in the middle of the night around 2-4 am when they are fast asleep and also just after lunch at around 1 pm. This is why you feel like a nap sometimes after dinner. These times can vary depending on whether you’re a morning person or a night owl type person. If you have had a good nights sleep, you probably won’t feel the dips and rises that much, but when your sleep deprived you will most certainly feel them. This is where the vicious circle happens. Your circadian rhythm gets confused as your sleep worsens, then your sleep worsens as your circadian rhythm worsens creating a vicious circle that is often difficult to break.
That’s why your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time day-to-day. When sleep gets interrupted like jet lag or shift work, the circadian rhythm gets disrupted and problems can ensue. This can also happen as you get older as it’s well documented that older people seen to need less sleep. But of course, not everyone will be effected.
Ok I understand, but how does Light Therapy Improve My Sleep?
To understand what time of the day it is, the body uses external clues, the most important of these being the amount of light entering through our eyes. Light tells our body that it is daytime therefore to stay awake, while lack of light tells the body that it’s night-time and time for sleep. Of course, caveman didn’t have a clock to tell him it was night, he used his sight. When it got dark, he knew sleep was needed and light woke him up ready for the next’s day hunt!
Nowadays of course, people can’t or don’t get enough daytime light. They get up, go to the car, drive to their work, drive home, back into the house without ever seeing any daylight. Their body slowly changes and their circadian rhythm gets confused so they end up with sleep problems.
A light therapy box works by restoring their body’s chemical reaction to light, increasing their melatonin and improving their circadian rhythm. Their sleep may improve as a result, so may their mood & concentration.
I have personally seen a big improvement after using my own therapy light box, even though I now get more sunlight in my life, when it’s winter, its sometime hard to get enough light.
How does the Light Therapy Box actually work?
It’s always best to seek medical advice when using any sleep aid and a Light Therapy Box is no exception. Ask your therapist, doctor, or sleep centre to help you decide if a light therapy box is ideal for you.
The actual working of the light therapy box is quite simple. You turn it on much the same as you would a lamp. You then go about your normal routine, reading, watching TV, using your iPhone or Laptop. Try not to look directly into the light as it is quite bright and can damage your retinas if you do foe long periods (always check with the manufacturers instructions). The light will stimulate your internal body clock as though you were out in the sun (minus the UV rays). The light should emit a minimum of 10,000 lux which is 20 times the strength of a typical lamp.
Is this the same as SAD light Therapy?
Yes, SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a type of depression that occurs in the fall to winter. People with SAD feel tired, less motivated & generally depressed. Again, it’s all to do with the amount of sunlight our bodies aren’t getting these days due to one reason or another. Using a Light Therapy Box regularly can help reduce the symptoms of SAD and associated problems such as Insomnia & sleep deprivation.
What other factors should I consider with Light Therapy For Sleep?
- Can a light therapy box damage my eyes?
Some light boxes include features that protect the eyes. They should also filter out 99% of all UV light to avoid damaging your eyes. Make sure your Health providers are aware of your choice especially if you have glaucoma, cataracts or eye damage from Diabetes.
- How bright is it?
The recommended intensity is 10,000 lux, which is about 20 times that of a normal lamp.
- How much UV light does it release?
Their should be very little as most boxes filter our about 99% of the harmful rays
- Is it made especially for SAD & sleep disorders?
No, there are other types of light therapy lights that can be used for skin disorders. These use UV rays which could damage your eyes should you look into them. Make sure you choose the correct light.
- What size & style do I need
This depends on your everyday usage prefered. Some people want a light to stand on the floor, others want it on the desk. Some prefer smallish ones, others prefer larger lights. Really is up to personal choice, but we will try to help you with this.
- Where should I place my Light Therapy Box
Some people like their lights at a 45 degree angle to themselves, so they don’t look at it directly. Or maybe on the floor at an angle to the TV.
- What are the best Light Therapy For Sleep Boxes
There are a few that come to mind. We are all different. The one that I have had great success with is this one from Verilux. I pray it works as well for you!
Best Light Therapy Box for sleep problems
This is the one that works for me. I use it everyday and my sleep problems have improved enormously. It stands on the floor and I use it for about 30 mins in the morning. I never look directly at it as it is quite powerful, so it sits at an angle to me. This is the 2nd lamp i have owned as my old one broke and they didn’t make them anymore.
It has amazing reviews over on Amazon. Here’s a typical reviewer “This has worked very well for my daughter. Helps a lot with SAD.”
- Gives off 10,000 lux which is about 20 times a normal lamp
- Stimulates hormones needed for good sleep
- Customizes to your personal preference
- Over 750+ excellent Amazon reviews from happy customers
- Broad surface emits more light
- Portable, can be used anywhere
- Reasonably priced at under $100 at time of review
- Not all therapy lights work for everyone, some reviewers say this hasn’t but majority happy
Check out the reviews & current Amazon price here
Thanks for reading this blog post. I welcome all comments, good or bad!