7 Benefits of Light Therapy and Possible Side Effects

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7 Benefits of Light Therapy (& 4 Possible Side Effects)

Light therapy is an effective treatment for various health conditions.

Written by Alex

Alex is an AYO Co-Founder with over a decade of experience in Circadian Health. His background includes technology, health & fitness, and marketing.

In recent years, light therapy has gained popularity as an effective treatment for various health conditions. While its modern application is relatively recent, the concept of using light for health benefits is not new. For instance, in ancient Egypt, sunlight was used for therapeutic purposes, with solarium rooms in temples where sun exposure was used to treat various ailments.

In modern days, light therapy continues to evolve with advancements like light therapy glasses. These wearables emit specific wavelengths of light. They conveniently integrate the healing properties of light into our daily lives, helping with various mood, sleep and circadian rhythm disorders.

Today, light therapy offers a range of health benefits, many of which have been thoroughly researched and validated. In this post, we’ll explore these benefits and also touch on some potential side effects.
Woman using AYO and enjoying the benefits of light therapy.

Light Therapy Benefits

Increased Energy Levels

Light therapy has shown remarkable results in increasing energy levels, particularly for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression. It helps in realigning the body’s internal clock, especially beneficial for individuals with disrupted circadian rhythms. By resetting this biological clock, light therapy enhances sleep quality, which is directly linked to increased energy during waking hours.

Additionally, light therapy is known to stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that not only uplifts mood but also contributes to a feeling of vitality and energy. This is especially crucial during the winter months when natural light is scarce, and individuals are prone to feeling lethargic.

Better Regulated Sleep

The impact of light therapy on sleep regulation is profound. It works by adjusting the body’s circadian rhythms, which are essential for a healthy sleep-wake cycle. This is particularly beneficial for individuals whose natural sleep patterns are disrupted due to factors like jet lag, shift work, or conditions like SAD. Furthermore, if you rely on an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, incorporating light therapy into your routine could lead to a more natural wake-up experience and contribute to a more robust circadian rhythm. Light therapy also influences the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals darkness to our bodies and that is tightly involved in the synchronization process of the body clock.

Improved Mental Health and Moods

One of the most significant benefits of light therapy is its ability to improve mental health and mood. This is inter alia achieved through the increase in serotonin levels and supporting one’s circadian rhythm. Serotonin plays a crucial role in mood regulation, and its deficiency is commonly linked to depression. Serotonin is a biosynthetic precursor of melatonin.

By stimulating the synthesis of serotonin, it helps alleviate symptoms of depression, enhancing overall mood and emotional well-being. This is particularly vital for individuals with mood disorders, where light therapy serves as a non-invasive treatment option.

Increased Productivity, Focus, and Ability to Learn

Light therapy has a positive impact on cognitive functions, including productivity, focus, and learning ability. By enhancing alertness and concentration, it can help individuals maintain a consistent level of cognitive performance throughout the day. This is especially beneficial in demanding academic or professional environments where sustained mental effort is required.
The therapy’s ability to align the body’s internal clock also contributes to this benefit, as a well-regulated circadian rhythm is key to maintaining focus and cognitive clarity.

Improved Memory

The benefits of light therapy extend to memory enhancement. By improving alertness, concentration and restorative sleep, light therapy aids in the effective functioning of memory processes. This is particularly valuable for individuals seeking to lift cognitive functions and enhance memory retention. The therapy’s role in regulating circadian rhythms and further sleep, also indirectly supports memory, as a well-aligned internal clock is crucial for optimal brain function, including memory consolidation.

Reduced Anxiety

Light therapy is effective in reducing anxiety, offering a non-pharmacological approach to managing anxiety symptoms. It achieves this by stabilizing the body’s internal clock and increasing serotonin levels, which helps create a more balanced emotional state. This is particularly effective for managing anxiety disorders and stress-related issues, where light therapy provides a safe and non-invasive treatment option.

More Regulated Digestion and Appetite

Another benefit of light therapy is its positive influence on digestion and appetite regulation. By synchronizing the body’s circadian rhythms, light therapy ensures more consistent and efficient digestion. This leads to a balanced appetite and reduced issues like indigestion or irregular bowel movements. In addition, aligning time of food intake with time of day also feeds back on the circadian rhythms in, for example, our digestive organs, hence further supporting digestion and appetite regulation.
Additionally, the regulation of serotonin levels not only affects mood and sleep but also plays a role in appetite control, contributing to healthier eating patterns.

Enhanced Healing

In medical and therapeutic settings, light therapy is used to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. It in particular stimulates cellular activity, particularly within the mitochondria, leading to increased production of ATP, the energy currency of the cell. This increase in cellular energy is crucial for repairing and regenerating damaged tissues.
Light therapy also promotes increased blood circulation and has anti-inflammatory effects, both essential for effective healing. Its applications range from wound healing to treatment of skin conditions and post-surgical recovery.

Potential side effects

While light therapy is generally considered safe, it’s important to acknowledge that some individuals may experience side effects. These effects can vary depending on individual sensitivity and the specific parameters of the light therapy used. However, they are typically mild and of transitory nature. Below, we expand on some of the common side effects.

Eye Strain

Eye strain is a potential side effect, particularly with intense or prolonged exposure to bright light. Symptoms include sore or itching eyes, blurred vision, and light sensitivity. To minimize this risk, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, take regular breaks, and consult an eye care professional if you have pre-existing eye conditions.

Headaches

Headaches can occur during or after light therapy sessions, possibly due to light intensity or duration. To reduce this risk, start with shorter sessions and gradually increase duration. Adjusting light intensity and consulting a healthcare provider is advisable if headaches persist. Skip a light therapy session under conditions of acute headache.

Nausea

Nausea, though less common, may arise when starting light therapy or adjusting its intensity. Starting with lower intensity and shorter sessions can help acclimate to the therapy. Persistent nausea should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Irritability

Some individuals may experience irritability or mood swings, especially in the initial stages of light therapy. This can be due to changes in the body’s internal clock and hormonal balances. Adjusting the timing and duration of sessions and consulting a healthcare provider if mood changes persist is recommended.

Conclusion

In conclusion, light therapy emerges as a versatile and effective treatment option for a range of health issues, from enhancing mental well-being and cognitive functions to improving sleep and aiding in physical healing. Its ability to regulate crucial bodily functions like circadian rhythms and hormone production makes it a powerful tool in both medical and everyday settings. While generally safe, it’s important to be mindful of potential side effects and to use light therapy under proper guidance.
As we continue to explore and understand the myriad benefits of light therapy, it stands as a testament to the profound impact of light on our overall health and well-being. Whether you’re seeking to increase your energy levels, improve your mood, or accelerate healing, light therapy offers a promising, non-invasive solution.
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