Light therapy is a treatment designed for the treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Circadian rhythm is what’s commonly known as your internal body clock which is responsible for telling your body when it is time to be awake and asleep.
This body clock is located in the brain and just above the spot in which the nerves are connected to the eyes. This part of the brain is referred to as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). It is then your body clock that is in control of your body’s circadian rhythms, which include alertness, body temperature, as well as the regular cycle of different hormones.
There are many factors that could affect the way your body clock works, among which is your exposure to bright light like sunlight. This explains why light therapy is one known method used for the treatment of people with circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
What Is the Goal of Light Therapy?
For people who have circadian rhythm problems, the goal of this therapy is to integrate a healthy sleep pattern with the internal body clock that is to be set at the most appropriate time. Through this, the person will really get to experience having a good night’s sleep.
Light therapy involves having your eyes exposed to intense yet safe degrees of light for a certain period of time. In case sunlight is not available during the set time for the treatment, artificial light could be used as a replacement. Artificial light can affect the body clock just like how sunlight affects it. With the continuous modernization of technology, more and more product are made to be used for light therapy.
Types of Light Therapy Products
Light box is the most widely used tool in light therapy. The box contains a number of tubes which produce very bright light. During the treatment session, you should be within a certain distance from the box, which is typically from 18 to 24 inches. During the treatment, you will not be asked to look straight into the light. All you need to do is face the spot where the box is located.
The newer models of light box are designed to be the safer ones. They are made in such a way that your eyes will be protected from the harmful UV rays. In terms of the frequency of this session that you need, it actually depends on the person’s needs, body, and even the amount of light being used. The key here is to utilize the light at the exact time of day for a certain time frame.
A desk lamp can have the same purpose as a light box. The only difference is that the former is designed to be very similar to an ordinary lamp. Furthermore, a desk lamp can blend in much better when it is used in an office environment.
This type of light source is one that you can wear on your head and then can hang on your eyes. This looks a lot like a visor commonly used in tennis.
A dawn simulator is a kind of light that can slowly make a dark room much brighter over a particular time frame. As the name suggests, this machine is used to mimic the sunrise.
Who Uses Light Therapy?
Bright light therapy is perfect for those individuals who are suffering from internal clock disorders. Here are some circadian rhythm disorders that can be cured by light therapy.
Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder — this is an internal clock disorder that causes a person to sleep at night way earlier than normal, and then wake up the following day earlier as well. This condition can be corrected by using the bright light early at night.
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder — this disorder makes people sleep so much later than normal. The result of this is that the person also wakes up later the following morning. This poor sleep pattern can have a considerable effect on how a person completes his daily activities. Bright light therapy can change this when the treatment is performed in the early hours of the morning.
Free-Running Sleep-Wake Rhythm — this disorder is characterized by falling asleep at varying times every single day. This is very common amongst people who have vision impairment. With light therapy, there is still hope that these individuals may be able to benefit from it despite their inability to see visible light.
Jet Lag — it occurs to people who cross many different time zones during a flight. If you are traveling east, you can use the light therapy in the morning, while evening bright light can help those traveling west.
Shift Work — this is a disorder brought about by a person’s work schedule. This is a difficult problem to address because work schedules can vary, thus leading to changing sleep times as well. In general, light treatment at night should be helpful to those who regularly for long hours throughout the evening.