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Does Red Light Therapy Work For Insomnia?
Insomnia refers to a sleep disorder whereby a person finds it hard to fall asleep or to sleep for continuous block of hours. As a result, the sufferer may tend to sleep most of the day and is unable to properly concentrate on their work, which adversely affects their productivity.
Some telltale signs of insomnia include mental and physical exhaustion, poor memory, lack of attention span, irritability as well as generalized fatigue. Mood swings and anxiety are the notable mental symptoms associated with insomnia. One of the most effective methods in treating insomnia is through phototherapy. We will delve into that in a bit and take a look at how it works, but first things first.
Causes of Insomnia
The causes of insomnia are as varied as the methods of treating it. However, the most common cause is disruption in the circadian rhythm which is often due to ambient noise, changes in job shift, jet lag, high altitudes and extreme temperature conditions.
Insomnia may also be triggered by psychological factors such as anxiety disorders, stress and depression, psychotic disorder or bipolar disorder.
In quite a few cases, insomnia could be as a result of an underlying medical condition, especially conditions that result in pain and fatigue, as well as diseases that affect the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system and the brain cells responsible for regulation of our sleep-wake cycles.
Hormonal changes have also been cited as possible causes of insomnia, with estrogen being a notorious mention here. Other factors that could cause insomnia include overactive mind, genetic conditions and pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms
As we have mentioned, the most common signs of insomnia is difficulty falling asleep at night, followed by daytime sleepiness. Irritability and poor concentration are also some symptoms associated with this condition.
Sufferers may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms and have difficulty fostering social relations. Insomnia may seem like a mild condition.
But if not treated with the urgency it deserves, the symptoms could escalate into a full-blown disaster.
Though there are many medications prescribed for the treatment of insomnia, they never really help if they do not target the root cause of the problem. One method that has increasingly been touted as a healthier and safer alternative to insomnia medications is phototherapy, especially with regards to the red light.
So, Does Red Light Therapy Work For Insomnia?
There have been lots of clinical studies suggesting red light could be beneficial for sleep. Proponents of the red light therapy for insomnia especially laud it for the fact that this light has lower color temperature as compared to other forms of light like the blue light. It is even lower than that of sunlight. Therefore, exposure to this kind of light, especially around sleep time is crucial in setting your body in the right mood for sleep.
Out of the many clinical trials that have been conducted on the effectiveness of red light with sleep, results have always been remarkable.
In a 2013 study done in Taiwan, the electroencephalography of the participants was examined before as well as during and after a red-light therapy. People with sleeping disorders found it easier to fall asleep.
There was yet another 2014 study investigating the cognitive functions of people suffering from traumatic brain injury. The results revealed that red light therapy helped patients recover from TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder and above all, insomnia.
These are just a few of the many studies that have been conducted around the effectiveness of red light among people battling with insomnia. And in each study, results have been very inspiring. As a result, red light therapy has been termed as one of the best noninvasive and non pharmacologic methods of treating sleep disorders like insomnia.
But just how does it work?
Healthy sleeping habits are associated with melatonin. This is the hormone that basically regulates your sleep-wake cycle. You have probably heard it mentioned countless times that you should shun the use of smartphones, PC and watching the television right before going to bed.
This is because it has been proven that if your body is exposed to too much light after dark, it will not release the required amounts of melatonin. It is important to remember that the body associates light with wakefulness, and thatâ€™s precisely why you find it difficult to fall asleep in lit conditions after dark.
Interestingly, red light is a pleasant exception to that rule.
When you expose yourself to red light, your body responds favorably by releasing more melatonin. As a result, you are able to, not only fall asleep faster, but also sleep for longer hours. In addition to the many research studies lauding the effectiveness of red-light therapy in treating sleep disorders, there are also anecdotal evidences from frequent users of red light therapy. Considering that most of these users are drawn from the health and fitness niche, world-class trainers and pro athletes, we can easily take them at their word.
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Are There Side Effects?
Mild exposure to visible red light should not come with any side effects. However, you are not advised to go for the red light therapy if you are suffering from drug-resistant non-seasonal depression. This is because the light could escalate your condition into a situation known as mania.
Though not very common, red light therapy could cause a bit of eye fatigue, skin aging and skin cancer. The most common symptoms are eye fatigue and frequent headaches. However, these are often mild and short lasting. In rare cases, you could also experience photo sensitivity, which is like an allergic reaction to light exposure. It is usually marked by redness and a burning sensation, but again these symptoms go away in a few weeks.
In order to overcome the possible side effects of red light therapy, always insist on approved sources of light therapy. If you intend to have this therapy professionally administered, ensure it is so administered by a trained therapist.
At the very least, you should wear protective equipment that shield your eyes and skin from non-iodizing
As we have seen, there are lots of advantages to using red light therapy for insomnia suffers. The best part is that unlike blue light and other forms of light, red light comes with minimal side effects.
The general consensus is to discuss with your therapist before going for this therapy, especially if you also have an underlying medical condition.