In today’s blog we are going to explain how to use Red Light Therapy for depression.
- Light and health
- How does RLT work?
- RLT and SAD/Depression
Light and health
Believe it or not, the light in our environment can affect our health and wellbeing massively.
Natural light has a lot of health benefits, but nowadays it can be hard to get enough of it, especially if you spend most of your day indoors, or live in a country where there are barely any sunny days.
When we spend a lot of time exposed to artificial light, our levels of melatonin decrease, causing a disruption to our circadian rhythm, our ability to sleep malfunctions and our blood pressure to deregulate.
Living with a circadian rhythm disruption, increases our risk of developing illnesses and disorders such as diabetes and depression.
There are many studies that show how increased hours of sunlight increases the brain’s production of serotonin, a mood-enhancing hormone. The more sunlight we are exposed to, the more serotonin we produce.
As Dr. Victoria Revell perfectly says, “Light is essential for our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we receive adequate levels at the appropriate times of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep pattern and many aspects of our physiology.”
If you are currently experiencing depression or mood swings, changing your light exposure can be the solution to your problem. For instance, if you are spending too much time indoors and not getting enough natural light, red light therapy can help you increase your light exposure, and prompt biological responses that will make you feel more energetic and alert.
How does RLT work?
When you expose the body to Red light therapy, it absorbs wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light. These are the wavelengths that you would get from the sunlight, but without the potentially harmful UV rays.
Natural sunlight stimulates the mitochondria in your cells promoting energy production and so does RLT.
RLT basically acts as a replacement for the sunlight that you can not get naturally due to your personal circumstances. These possibly include excess time indoors, excessive exposure to artificial light late in the day, or prolonged periods of bad weather.
When RLT is shined on a person’s head, the wavelengths can go beyond the surface of the skin, and reach the brain which affects the cells directly. This light is absorbed by the mitochondria, which boosts cerebral metabolism, improves neuroplasticity, increases oxygen consumption and decreases inflammation (1), (3).
RLT and SAD / Depression
There is new science and research that shows how RLT can have big potential to treat Seasonal affective disorder* (SAD), seasonal depression and also depression.
*SAD or seasonal affective disorder, is classified as a type of major depression with a seasonal pattern that typically affects people in the fall and winter months, when it’s colder and there is less natural sunlight (2).
In one study called the Elated-2 Pilot trial, red light therapy was used to treat people with major depression over the course of eight weeks. They conclude that RLT showed antidepressant properties, it was safe, easy to use and well-tolerated by the patients. (1)
Dr. Marc Schoen, from UCLA Medical School, who has more than 25 years of experience treating psychological disorders, has found success treating patients with depressive episodes with natural light treatments.
“In tandem with psychotherapy and/or hypnosis, using red and NIR light therapy appears to catapult patients out of an acute depressive state faster than any other modality I’ve used,” says Dr. Schoen.
Dr. Schoen also emphasises how Red and Near Infrared light can speed up the recovery process.
“Using pharmaceutical interventions, along with psychotherapy and/or hypnosis, for patients with acute, recurrent major depressive episodes requires extended periods of time for results to materialise,” says Dr. Schoen. “Adding red and NIR light therapy appears to significantly speed up the healing process.”
To conclude, RLT clearly shows potential to treat SAD and depression. Seasonal depression-like symptoms, not getting enough sunlight exposure, and having a blue light environment late at night, can be safely treated with RLT exposure, with very promising results.
More research needs to be done, but so far they all point to a good direction.
If you would like to treat your depression with natural treatments with no adverse consequences, RLT might be the treatment you are looking for.
Now that you know how important light is, in your environment, are you going to give a chance to this innovative yet promising technology?
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**You can find all the studies used for this blog below, as well as the source of inspiration.
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**Sources of information:
- Transcranial Photobiomodulation for the treatment of major depressive disorder. The ELATED-2 pilot trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30346890/
- Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder#:~:text=Seasonal%20affective%20disorder*%20is%20a,Depressive%20Disorder%20with%20Seasonal%20Pattern.
- The potential of transcranial photobiomodulation therapy, for treatment of major depressive disorder. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28231069/