13 Benefits of Light Therapy

13 Benefits of Light Therapy

When the fall and winter seasons come around, bright light therapy tends to become a hot topic. And while it's grown in popularity over the past few years, it's been around for quite some time.

Hippocrates initially wrote about light therapy in 400 BC when describing the importance of the sun. In 1984, Norman Rosenthal coined the term Seasonal Affective Disorder and emphasized the benefits of light therapy lamps.

Since then, light boxes have drastically evolved, becoming more accessible and affordable for the general population.


What do Therapy Lamps do?

Bright light therapy involves sitting in front of a specially designed lamp that emits 10,000 LUX. This is the needed light intensity required to mimic sunlight. And because a lack of sun exposure causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), these lamps can be beneficial in counteracting poor sun exposure.

When we don't get enough sunlight, our body doesn't produce enough serotonin and melatonin, two essential hormones to our well-being. This results in a lack of energy, poor sleep, and depleted mental health.

By sitting in front of a light therapy lamp for 20 to 30 minutes each morning, you "trick" your body into producing those two hormones. The lamp's intensity causes your body to make those hormones, raising energy levels, regulating your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), and improving mental health.

Because of the effects these lamps have, they bring many benefits. Below, we highlight thirteen light therapy benefits. Please note that adding other activities such as good sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet is essential to gain full benefits. Utilizing only light therapy to improve your health will not produce the desired results.

What are the Light Therapy Lamp Benefits?

Improved Energy

Serotonin plays a vital role in energy levels. Greater serotonin levels are often associated with more energy.

We get a lot of energy from the sun, which can be duplicated through bright light therapy. This is especially helpful during dark winter months when we're stuck inside. Light therapy effectively replaces lost sun exposure to give our bodies that needed serotonin boost and more energy.

Regulated Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) is heavily dictated by sunlight. Serotonin later converts to melatonin at night, which tells our body it's time to sleep. Inadequate melatonin levels are key culprits in many sleep disorders.

Sitting in front of a therapy lamp sparks serotonin production, which then converts to melatonin at night to aid in sleep-wake regulation. This causes you to feel more alert during the day and sleepier when it's bedtime.

A study conducted in 2022 found light therapy to alleviate sleep disruption for women undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. The study compared dim red light to white light and saw white light to:

  • Increase night-time sleep
  • Decrease sleep disturbances throughout the night
  • And decrease the frequency and length of daytime naps.

Are you struggling to sleep at night? Try turning to bright light therapy for 20-30 minutes each morning.

Better Mental Health and Moods

One of the primary uses of light therapy is to treat mental health conditions such as seasonal affective disorder. Low serotonin levels cause many conditions, such as SAD.

Serotonin is a vital hormone for mental health. Most of the 40 million brain cells are impacted by it. Higher serotonin levels equate to more manageable moods, whereas lower levels create mental health conditions. Because light therapy lamps boost serotonin levels, they make managing moods easier.

One core study area is dementia, which disregulates one's circadian rhythm. Studies have found light therapy improves the sleep-wake cycle of those with dementia. It's been shown to improve rest and activity while enhancing sleep quality. More studies are needed to understand effectiveness better.

While more studies are needed, light therapy has shown significant promise in alleviating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and dementia. These studies have shown to help symptoms while improving quality of life.

Improved Productivity and Focus

Greater serotonin levels equate to more energy, which gives us a boost in productivity and focus. This boost in serotonin promotes feelings of happiness. And being in a good mood offers even greater productivity. Happier moods spark even more serotonin, which creates a domino effect of health and wellness.

Better Memory

It's been found that increased serotonin levels lead to improved memory. A 2017 John Hopkins study found those with decreased memory and Alzheimer-like conditions have drastically lower serotonin neurons.

This finding leads researchers to believe that serotonin levels directly cause memory decline instead of a byproduct. Now, it's believed that increasing serotonin levels can reduce memory decline.

Lower Anxiety

Melatonin plays a vital role in anxiety levels. Lower levels of melatonin equate to greater feelings of anxiety. Many studies have found melatonin to reduce anxiety in patients before surgery. Those administered melatonin before surgery showed reduced symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Another study of 58 patients with anxiety from epilepsy found it to be effective in reducing symptoms. A 2013 study also found positive results for those using light therapy compared to a sham treatment.

Improved Sexual Function

Another area of function serotonin plays a role in is sexual function. Higher serotonin levels are associated with a high libido, whereas lower levels are associated with a low libido.

two-week study looked at the effects of light therapy on male sexual function. The study found light therapy to effectively treat those with hypoactive sexual desire disorder and sexual arousal disorder.

Better Regulated Appetite and Digestion

The effects of serotonin flow over to digestion and appetite regularities.

Adequate serotonin levels are essential to good eating habits. This regulates bowel function and minimizes your appetite when eating. Numerous studies have found light therapy to effectively aid in treating those with eating disorders.

More Efficient Healing

Did you know serotonin plays a vital role in your body's healing process?

When you experience a cut in your skin, blood platelets release serotonin to help heal the wound. The released serotonin causes arteries to narrow and helps form blood clots. 

Improved Ability to Learn More

Decreased cognitive ability is frequently a side effect of low energy and often seasonal depression.

Low serotonin levels are frequently associated with low energy levels. Our ability to process and retain information suffers when we need energy. Harvard Health Publishing explains that "constant fatigue can make you less mentally and physically active, hamper cognitive function, and diminish overall quality of life."

We need energy to function correctly. Bright light therapy helps with this by tricking your body into producing more serotonin, which gives you more energy—that increase in energy results in an improved ability to learn and process information.

Decreased Blood Pressure

One of the critical benefits of sun exposure is lowered blood pressure. However, it does pose health risks from UV rays. This is where light therapy can be a great alternative.

British scientists found exposure to blue light therapy for 30 minutes lowers blood pressure. Additionally, poor mental health and stressful situations can temporarily cause spikes in blood pressure.

While not linked directly, improving your wellness through light therapy can reduce blood pressure.

Better Lit Environment

Another great thing about light therapy lamps is that they create a well-lit room.

This benefit isn't just aesthetically pleasing but also helpful for your health. Humans require light to function adequately. A properly lit environment:

  • Helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle
  • Preserves eye health
  • Makes navigation easier without falling
  • And can boost moods and mental state.

Non-Invasive (Drug-Free)

It's common to treat conditions such as seasonal depression, anxiety, and circadian rhythm disorder with medications. And while effective, they can create harmful long-term effects on the body.

Not only does light therapy work, but it's safe. It can be an effective way to reduce symptoms and minimize dependency on medications with little to no side effects.

Because of its simplicity, it's natural to doubt the legitimacy of light therapy. Consider these findings:

  • 2022 light therapy study concluded this treatment "offers a simple, safe, and cost-effective approach to augmenting depressive treatment on an acute psychiatric floor." 
  • systematic review involving 15 studies found light therapy to be equally effective, if not more, compared to antidepressants.

Light therapy presents a holistic method to improve energy, sleep, and mental health. While this method will not wholly replace medications, it can reduce dependency.

To summarize, light therapy has numerous benefits, such as increased energy, better sleep, improved mental health, enhanced productivity and focus, better memory, reduced anxiety, increased sexual function, improved digestion and appetite, better healing abilities, improved learning capability, decreased blood pressure, a better-lit environment, and it is a non-invasive treatment option.

It's vital to know that, to gain full benefits, it's crucial to incorporate other practices such as exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep hygiene.