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Red Light Therapy For Sleep: Does It Actually Work?

If you often find yourself staying up late at night, you are probably one of 70 million Americans who suffers from a sleeping disorder. You might have started to feel frustrated over the adverse effects of sleeping pills and are in search of an alternate solution. You may have come across red light therapy for sleep during your late-night internet research, and are wondering, “Does it actually work?”

Before we jump straight into how red-light therapy helps improve your sleep quality, we first need to understand the sleep disorders and their relationship to light.

Quality sleep is a crucial component for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. You not only need to get enough sleep but getting deep, restful sleep that perfectly aligns with your natural circadian rhythm is also essential.

Most Common Sleep Disorders

The term sleep disorder is typically used for all conditions that prevent adequate, restful sleep. Some of the most common sleep disorders are listed below:

  • Insomnia: It is a very prevalent sleeping disorder that is reported the most. It refers to a condition that makes it extremely difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Around 10 percent of Americans are thought to be affected by this condition.
  • Idiopathic Hypersomnia & Narcolepsy: These conditions are characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness that isn’t due to sleep-disordered breathing, circadian sleep disorder, sleep deprivation, or any other known medical reason.
  • Sleep Apnea: It is distinguished by irregular and interrupted breathing during sleep. It leads to the development of hypertension, hormonal imbalance, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

Symptoms of Sleep Disorders

The various types of sleep disorders somehow differ in the way they manifest, but the symptoms are typically shared across all of these conditions:

  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Difficulty falling or stay asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Clinically significant emotional stress
  • Occupational/social impairment
  • High incidence of nightmares

Red Light and Sleep

At this point, we all know that blue light can interfere with sleeping patterns and degrade sleep quality. Unlike blue light, red light does not exhibit stimulating properties. Its characteristic low color temperature has a soothing effect on the body. The use of red light in the evening can help you transition into the sleep cycle effortlessly.

Researchers have found solid evidence that backs the benefits of red-light therapy for improving sleeping habits. A recent study showed how red light therapy could affect sleep quality and endurance performance of elite female athlete basketball players. Twenty athletes were divided into a red-light sleep or control group. The participants received red light exposure for 30 minutes daily, for two weeks straight. On the other hand, the control group received no red-light treatment at all. At the end of two weeks, the red-light group showed significant improvement in serum melatonin levels as well as sleep quality.

Red light therapy uses wavelengths from the visible spectrum ranging between 620nm and 700nm. Because of this shorter wavelength, red light is able to penetrate your skin deeply and is able to produce its effects at the cellular level. It has been shown to slow down inflammation, mitigate pain, and promote the natural healing process in damaged tissues and cells. This helps promote good sleep on both physical and emotional levels.  When your body doesn’t hurt, you are able to sleep a lot easier!

References:

  1. Common Sleep Disorders, (Oct 20, 2013). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11429-common-sleep-disorders
  2. Zhao J, Tian Y, Nie J, Xu J, Liu D. Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. J Athl Train. 2012;47(6):673-678. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.08
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