You've probably heard the term light therapy pop up in your socials, podcasts even the news lately. It is the thing these days. It's gone from being just something that helps to maximize your deep and REM sleep to now affecting your hormones, skin health and even mental health... not to mention jet lag.
If you boil down all the recommendations to the very essence of what is being said you would get: use light as your nomadic ancestors would. For some of us who live in the city that might be far from comprehensible. Basically it can be summarized as these steps:
- Watch the sun rise outside (even if cloudy or raining). This starts the circadian cascade that signals all the hormones to function in turn throughout the day.
- Get outside as much as possible during the day (even when raining) to help your body (not your mind) know what time it is.
- Don't use sunscreen. By getting the first sun rays of the day you actually increase melanin which helps to protect your skin later in the day when the sun is stronger.
- Get to bed between 9-11 pm. This will improve melatonin production which not only helps you sleep but is a powerful antioxidant.
If you follow these principles while travelling you can adjust your circadian rhythm fairly quickly to avoid the dreaded jet lag.
How does this look in the modern world?
- Change the settings on your phone and computer screen to reduce blue light during the day and at night and get rid of the flickering from LED lights which is very damaging (affects hormones).
- Change the bulbs in your house to be incandescent, not LED which is blue light. If you are super hardcore you might even change your bulbs to red light.
- Wear blue light blocking glasses. Clear in summer or yellow in winter during the day and red glasses at night.
I know! It sounds like a lot. Since diving into all things light therapy I have been slowly making adjustments, starting with my phone and computer screens and incandescent bulbs where I can in the house. (No red light bulbs for me, its a bit more than I can handle.) Blue light blocking glasses and more.
So why is blue light so bad?
Our bodies were literally built to use natural sunlight for so many functions, from vitamin D production, to cell activation and energy production, to melatonin production for sleep and oxidative stress repair while we sleep! The list goes on.
The sun has every single color in the spectrum in small amounts from blues to purples and yes, also yellow and red, with bigger concentrations at different times of the day. So that is what our skin and eyes know best, lots of colors. LED lights however, which are in everything from light bulbs to computer/phone screens, oven clocks, microwaves, lights in the car, head lights, fridge lights (the list is never ending), are blue and green light, which in sun light is most present at midday, to signal to our brains to be awake.
Blue light is not natural after dark (our ancestors were used to sitting by the fire after dark which is red light) as it blocks serotonin from activating the pineal glad to release melatonin, making sleep and the other effects of melatonin something hard to achieve.
Red light therapy
Then there is red light therapy which deliver concentrated natural light to your skin and cells. It is basically a mega dose of daylight on your skin in the span of 15 minutes or less, something we are built for but don’t have the luxury of these days, living mostly inside, covering our bodies with clothes and sunscreen.
There are a number of different home devices, and the one we use is the Joov, it is a rectangular panel that comes in different sizes (and prices!) that shines natural red and near infrared light on the body.
How it works
Our bodies, and our cells, need natural light to get their many jobs done. Natural light is just as important as the nutrition we get from our food and hydration. But, most of us don’t get enough time outside. Imagine that we were built to live outdoors with the surface area of our skin meant to absorb natural daylight and use it for many functions, most people only know about Vitamin D production from sunlight, but there is more. You probably learnt about mitochondria at some point, the powerhouses inside of every single cell that make ATP energy. ATP is essential for everything we do. So much so that the more we can produce, the better we function: more energy, better mental and physical performance and even better appearance. Yes, we look sexier the more natural light we get….
So, devices like the Joov, can help us get enough ‘natural’ light exposure and therefore produce more ATP even in the dead of winter when we aren’t outside.
Difference between red light and near infrared light
Most home devices can give off red light or near infrared light (or both at the same time), depending on the setting.
Red light, which is visible to the human eye emits a wavelength of 660 nm and is easily absorbed by the skin tissue improving skin health and collagen production. It is often used in facials for better appearance of the sink and anti-aging. Near infrared light (note that this is different from infrared light, the kind you find in saunas that heats you from the inside) emits a wavelength of 850 nm and is not visible to the human eye. This kind of light penetrates into deeper tissue and is used for muscle recovery and to relieve joint pain.
Improved skin clarity, tone and texture and increased collagen production
Increased testosterone production in men
Reduced joint pain and inflammation
Fading of scars and stretch marks
Enhanced weight loss
Enhanced muscle recovery
Improved athletic performance
Relieves Seasonal affective disorder
Weight loss and cellulite reduction
Reduced symptoms of jet lag
And many more…
How light therapy can help to balance your circadian rhythm and reduce jet lag
You have heard us say this on repeat, light exposure is one of the most important signals for our brain to know when to be awake and when it is time to sleep. Light is the key to a healthy circadian rhythm. Unfortunately, as everyone now knows, bright lights such as city lights, blue light bulbs in our homes, even headlights from oncoming traffic, TV and computers screens and of course our smart phones can have very damaging effects on our circadian rhythms throwing us out of balance and inhibiting natural sleep cycles 1.
When using Red Light Therapy to improve your sleep cycles, it is important to also turn off your blue light devices and lights by 8 pm at the latest, otherwise it is the battle of the lights.
Red Light Therapy devices have been shown to support the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals the body it is time for sleep and helps you to stay asleep 2.
This is because Red light therapy devices have a lower color temperature even than natural daylight and have been shown to help ease the body into its normal sleep cycle3. You can get the full body exposure at home or take a hand held device on your next trip to minimize your jet lag. This in combination with our Rest formula, and you will be sleeping like a baby.
It is super important that you research the Red Light Therapy Device if wanting to purchase at the energy use, color wavelength and EMF exposure can vary greatly from device to device.
Lirong Z., Phyllis Z. “Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders” Neurologic Clinics. 2012, November.
Morita T., Tokura H. “ Effects of lights of different color temperature on the nocturnal changes in core temperature and melatonin in humans” Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 1996, September
Naeser MA, Zafonte R, et al. “Significant improvements in cognitive performance post-transcranial, red/near-infrared light-emitting diode treatments in chronic, mild traumatic brain injury: open-protocol study.” Journal of Neurotrauma. 2014 Jun 1;31(11):1008-17.