Light Therapy: Sci-Fi Apparel or Sleep Medicine?
Light therapy has become an increasingly common treatment option for various sleep disorders over the last few years. We at Sleep Health Group think it’s an exciting new piece of technology with a lot of potential to help people, but we also understand that it’s a bit confusing.
How on earth can a strip of light-projecting plastic that looks like something from Star Trek, help me to sleep better? Does it hurt my eyes? How often do I need to wear them?
These are all fair questions; questions we’ll answer in the article below.
How do they work?
Before humans invented things like electricity and light bulbs, we relied on the cycle of night and day to give us light to work by. Because of this, when the sun went down and the light went away, we slept.
This day/night wake/sleep cycle is ingrained into our very biology. When we’re in a dark environment, particularly after we’ve been working for a while, our body interprets our surroundings as night-time, and releases something called melatonin: a hormone which makes us sleepy. In the same way, when we are exposed to light, our body suppresses melatonin and makes us more awake and alert.
Historically, these light and dark triggers have been day and night, but in the last few centuries, we’ve invented lamps, lightbulbs and smartphones that all shine light directly into our faces. So when you’re staring at your phone before bed, or lying in the dark in the morning trying to get up, your body’s melatonin levels are actually doing the opposite of what you want them to.
This is where light therapy comes in. Say for example, you struggle to fall asleep at night and wake up feeling tired. Wearing light therapy glasses in the morning will force your melatonin levels down making you more awake, and allow you to get tired more organically in the evenings. But the time of day you wear the glasses will depend on your personal sleep habits.
How bright is the light?
One of the most ingenious things about light therapy glasses is the way they shine light into your eyes. While the light itself is relatively strong, it doesn’t hurt your eyes, cause you to squint or make you uncomfortable in any way. This is because the light is shone at an angle, entering your pupil in such a way that you can’t ‘see’ the light, but it still represses melatonin. Much in the same way that sunlight doesn’t enter your eyes by staring directly at the sun, but by reflecting off various surfaces.
The other interesting aspect is that light therapy actually uses blue or green light, instead of the expected white or yellow. Research has shown that those cooler colours actually have an increased impact on melatonin secretion, so by using them, the light doesn’t need to be as bright.
How often do I need to wear them?
You needn't be concerned about having to wear these high-tech rims out and about while you’re buying the groceries. Most people only need to wear the glasses for 20-30 minutes for them to have an impact. And even then, they’re only worn in the period directly before or directly after sleep.
We regularly prescribe a loan of a pair of AYO light therapy glasses for one to four weeks. If you want to what the devices are like and how they function, you can visit their website here.
If you’ve read this article, and felt like light therapy glasses might be something you’d benefit from, then please get in touch with us. A conversation with one of our sleep technicians will help you work out what sleep disorders you have, if any, as well as the best ways to go about treating them.
Start your pathway to better sleep now.