Does light therapy work? What are the benefits of light therapy? Here are the questions to which our article responds. Read it, and you will find out the truth. We suspect that you are not going to light therapy just for fun! You need the motivation to join this treatment that is not really familiar. Fortunately, light therapy offers many benefits that will make you consider seriously trying the treatment.
On the effects of light therapy, we know that light enters through the retina to be transmitted to the brain. This acts on the pineal gland and therefore hormones (including melatonin commonly known as sleep hormone) and/or neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which has an effect on depression. The action of light on these areas of the brain is not 100% proven, but effects are observed.
Light therapy has certain risks and side effects. For example, the first sessions can cause headaches, eye irritations, irritability, etc. Just like staying too long exposed to this light.
This is why it is important to take into account and respect the indications for light therapy, the best is to consult a specialist. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how does light therapy work and to all benefits of light therapy.
1 – Does Light Therapy Work for Seasonal Depression?
The main application of light therapy, and also the one that is the best scientifically documented, is seasonal depression. This syndrome appears as winter approaches, as external clarity decreases, and has a detrimental effect on the internal biological clock of some people. The origin of this syndrome remains unknown. Light therapy is a recognized medical treatment for fighting seasonal depression.
In the Nordic countries, from 3% to 6% of individuals, and even up to 10%, according to some sources, suffer from seasonal depression. They present with symptoms such as depressed mood, chronic fatigue, low libido, an excessive need for sleep, awkward awakenings, bouts of bulimia or an abnormally large appetite, especially for sugar and carbohydrates. (bread, pasta, potatoes). In Canada, almost 3% of the population would be affected by seasonal depression, while 18% would experience a “winter depression”, characterized by disturbing symptoms, but less disabling than those of seasonal depression.
Light therapy is also used to counter other symptoms that may be associated with internal body clock disruption, such as sleep disorders and PMS, or to deal with jet lag or night shift problems. It may also be helpful in some cases of depression such as postpartum (as a result of childbirth) or non-seasonal depression in the elderly.
Light therapy could also have preventive virtues against these same problems. It could especially benefit people who feel a slight “winter blues” annual or who work all day without seeing the light of day, whether in an office or a factory. Dr. David Servan-Schreiber describes it, among other things, in his book “Cure” as well as Dr. Norman Rosenthal in “Thirst for light”.
*** Contribute to the treatment of depression
A systematic review published in 2004 and reviewed in 2009 concluded, based on the analysis of 20 clinical trials (including 620 subjects in total), that light therapy shows modest, but promising, efficacy in contributing to the treatment of untreated depression seasonal.
In 2008, a systematic review was published from 15 clinical trials. The results are inconsistent when light therapy is used as the sole source of treatment. In contrast, in people on pharmacological therapy, the addition of light therapy treatments was effective in managing the symptoms of depression.
Two clinical trials evaluated the effects of light therapy on people with major depression. In both trials, all subjects were also treated with an antidepressant. The results indicate that light therapy (10,000 lux) significantly decreases depressive symptoms and improves overall well-being compared with placebo or light-intensity therapy (4,000 lux). The authors concluded that light therapy may be an effective therapeutic intervention to decrease symptoms of depression and could be used as an adjunct to pharmacological therapy.
2 – Facilitate Sleep (Insomnia, Early Morning Awakening)
By playing a role in the regulation of circadian rhythms, light therapy may help to facilitate sleep. Results from a few randomized clinical trials have shown that, compared to placebo, light therapy sessions were effective in improving various sleep problems such as early morning wakefulness, initial insomnia, and delayed sleep syndrome (a trend to fall asleep only very late at night).
For dawn simulation, a study of 77 people concluded that this practice slightly increased the quality of sleep. However, results from a pilot trial included in a systematic review indicate that dawn simulation compared to placebo did not have a beneficial effect on sleep duration in 13 subjects with dementia.
3 – Reduce the Problems Related to Jet Lag (Air Travel and Night Time)
The results of a few clinical trials have shown that, compared to a control group, light therapy may be effective in altering internal biological rhythms and may, therefore, help reduce jet lag and improve night workers’ sleep. But further studies will be needed before we can decide on the effectiveness of this approach.
4 – Reduce Depressive Symptoms Related to Premenstrual Syndrome
A systematic review published in 2005 identified four crossover clinical trials (55 subjects in all) that evaluated the efficacy of light therapy for depressive symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome. As these trials presented contradictory results, the authors conclude that there is currently no evidence of the efficacy of light therapy to reduce depressive symptoms associated with this disorder.
5 – Reduce Bulimia Attacks Associated with the Influence of the Seasons
Three clinical trials including 1741, 3442 and 18 women with bulimia associated with the season (increased seizures during the winter) have been published. The results of the first 2 trials indicate that light therapy treatments may decrease the frequency of seizures compared to placebo treatment. On the other hand, the results of the third trial did not show positive effects superior to placebo. Note, however, that the intensity of the light, in this case, was only 2,500 lux compared to 10,000 lux in the first two. Finally, results from a non-control study of 22 women indicate that light therapy may be effective in reducing the frequency of bulimic attacks.
6 – Facilitate the Sleep of Elderly People Suffering from Dementia
Light therapy may reduce agitation and improve sleep in elderly people with dementia. In a small study, 48 people were exposed to artificial light for 90 minutes daily for 8 weeks. For one half it was a standard light source and for the other a light therapy lamp. Similar improvements in sleep duration were observed in both groups.
7 – Weight Loss
The way light therapy can help weight loss is surprising. The trick is that exposure to light will increase your metabolic rate. This means that when you combine a proper and healthy diet with light therapy, you will begin to see the results of the weight loss you are looking for.
As you lose weight with your light and diet combination, you will begin to notice a reduction in your appetite, decreased stress, and increased energy. Who would have thought that sitting next to a lamp could be so useful?
8 – Pain Relief
If you are wondering what “pain relief” is, think as widely as you can. There are countless ways that light therapy can help relieve pain.
From muscle and joint pain to headaches, light therapy is an excellent treatment for the various pains you may feel. Light therapy is a really safe option to treat your pain because it is natural. You will no longer need to resort to medications or invasive methods to relieve your ailments when you choose to use light therapy. Pain relief is facilitated by light therapy when light enters your skin and energy speeds up the healing process in your cells.
9 – Fight Acne
Contrary to what we all hope during adolescence, acne simply does not disappear once you become an adult.
Once again, light therapy may be the answer you’ve been looking for for so many years. You will still want to use other skin care products for your acne as well, but light therapy will provide a deeper treatment step than skin care products.
The light that will penetrate your skin will help kill some of the acne bacteria that hide underneath. Light therapy also helps treat acne by reducing the amount of sebum that afflicts your skin, and by working to reduce inflammation. The proper use of light therapy with the right skin care products could be the perfect combo!
10 – Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are not something that only happens if you are pregnant. The reality is that many of us find ourselves developing over time for various reasons, and we all want to diminish their appearances.
This is exactly what light therapy does, and over time, the appearance of your stretch marks will diminish so much that you will not even remember where they were! Does it sound too good to be true? This is not the case, but it takes time and perseverance.
With each light therapy treatment, the appearance of your stretch marks will be flattened and thinned. Generally, with about twenty sessions spread over a period of a few weeks, you can see up to 60% improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks. If you use light therapy in combination with one of the standard creams or gels, imagine the results you will get in a timely manner!
11 – Night Work or “Breaks” Work
For night work, light therapy is used at the time corresponding to the beginning of the workday. A second exposure to light is recommended around 1 am (moment of the “pump stroke”) and at the end of work, the person will avoid the morning light to sleep better during the day.
For a work of “breaks”, there must be no change in schedules for a minimum of 7 days. At that time, each change of work schedule will have to be adapted based on the light therapy treatments recommended in the jet lag (change of time zone during air travel).
12 – Does Light Therapy Work on Alcohol Abstinence?
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1993, Jul. 54.7, 260-2) demonstrates that “the absence of light (darkness) calls alcohol”. Without added stressors, rats with a total absence of light prefer to drink alcohol rather than water. In this same study, the author shows that light therapy can be very useful in alcoholic weaning. The author notes that alcohol consumption is more frequent during the autumn-winter period. Especially during this time, a morning light therapy session administered to these patients will help them prevent relapse. By its stabilizing effect on sleep and on its composition, light therapy can be used during alcohol withdrawal in addition to conventional treatments.
13 – How Does Light Therapy Work about Sport?
Studies have been done on the state of vigilance of the brain of volunteers exposed or not to light. It turns out that people exposed to intense light respond more quickly and with more discernment than those in the dark. Athletes, practicing a sport requiring great attention, will see a certain interest in the use of light therapy. For professional sportsmen, a problem of jet lag can be added.
14 – Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease
A morning light therapy session can improve the intense fatigue states experienced by people with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. An ophthalmological examination is necessary.
15 – Seniors and Senile Dementia
Older people often have phase advances in sleep: the person falls asleep early and wakes early. Exposure to light around 17:00 will delay the onset of sleep and shift the sleep phase to darkness. There are few caregivers during the night, which increases the risk of accidents for the elderly who get up at night without supervision. Let’s not forget that many hypnotics have many side effects including negative effects on memory, on balance, they reduce alertness, they cause nighttime sedation effects but also diurnal, they have a depressive effect and cause addiction and addiction. Light therapy does not have these disadvantages and is certainly very well placed to replace or, in any case, reduce hypnotics.
16 – In Alzheimer’s Disease
The cognitive states and disruption of sleep-wake cycles in Alzheimer’s disease are due to degeneration of the cells of the biological clock due to the disease. In the beginning of the disease, when the biological clock is still active, the general state of the patient can be improved by exposing him to a morning session of light therapy. (The light improves the synchronization of biological rhythms).
17 – Active and Healthy People
A short session of light therapy, within two hours after sunrise, provides the same tone as a sunny morning of spring or summer. Dawn simulators can also increase serotonin production in the morning and reduce melatonin (feeling tired). These simulators allow you to wake up with the light and respect the sleep cycle.
18 – And Many More on How Does Light Therapy Work…
By emitting light with or without color filters on a particular area of the body, about ten centimeters from the skin. Light therapy has also proven its worth in the treatment of various problems:
– Chronic pain
– Wounds, wounds, ulcers, scarring
– Sports accidents, sports medicine
– Prevention of wrinkles, cellular aging
– Inflammation, arthritis
– Immune system
Note on the side effects of light therapy
The light is devoid of ultraviolet and infrared, light therapy is a priori devoid of side effects. Slight headaches and insomnia are sometimes observed, especially at the beginning of treatment. A decrease in the duration of exposure and a greater spacing of the sessions will remove these small disadvantages. Caution should be exercised in persons sensitive to light, treated with lithium salts or tetracyclines (sensitisers).
Caution is recommended in people with bipolar illness who will not do light therapy outside of medical supervision because there is a risk of triggering a manic state. This risk is even greater if the patient tends to prolong the light therapy sessions. We recommend 10-minute sessions during the depressive phases and a stop of the treatment as soon as the symptoms improve.