The light around you, be it LED lighting or solar energy from the sun, can have both positive and negative mental health effects on you. Let’s shine a light on the world of lights, light therapy, and everything in-between.
The Sun and You
If you’re feeling depressed, someone may have told you to go outside and get some sun. While this is an oversimplification of depression treatment, there are kernels of truth to it. Natural sunlight can have quite a few mental health benefits. For some people who are depressed, preferably pregnant women, therapy involve bright lights that are the sun or simulate the sun may be beneficial. If you’re hospitalized, make sure you’re getting enough sun, and you could feel better. Sunlight can help boost your serotonin levels, which improves your mood overall.
Sun and Sleep
Besides that, the sun does help regulate your sleep cycles. When it’s bright outside, your body signals itself to be awake. Meanwhile, when it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase. That’s why it’s hard to fall asleep for some while in the sunlight, and why a sleep mask or blackout curtains are highly recommended. If you have insomnia, a bit of sunlight may help you, but it all depends on your sleep disorders.
For one thing, if you need to shift your sleep cycles, a bit of light therapy may help. Sitting in the sun for at least 30 minutes a day can help you to shift your sleep schedule. This is beneficial if you’re traveling and in an entirely new time zone.
Early in the morning seems to have the most benefits for this, especially when combined with melatonin supplements.
Next up is blue light. Blue light is found naturally in the sun, but the screens around you and certain fluorescent lights have high amounts of it.
Recently, blue light has come under fire for how it affects our sleeping. Blue light can damage melatonin and disrupt our circadian rhythm, making it difficult to fall asleep. If you can’t sleep and end up on the computer, it’s usually going to make the problem worse.
Also, too much blue light may lead to other problems, like eye strain and degeneration of the eyes over time.
It sounds scary, right? We live in a world where we have to look at screens. You’re looking at one right now! Many websites will recommend you stop looking at screens an hour or two before bed, but for some, that just isn’t doable.
You can fix this in a few different ways. For one, your computer, smartphone, or other devices may have a night mode that changes the display to look warmer during the night, and there are blue light filters built-in on some phones to help reduce the blue light. Buying glasses and physical filters to slide over your phone can reduce your chances of damage due to blue light.
Since the sun contains blue light, you probably realize that not all of it is bad. It’s all about moderation. Some levels can regulate your circadian rhythm, make you more alert, and treat some disorders. Some therapists may use blue light for seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, for example. SAD tends to happen in fall and winter, where the days get shorter.
Another form of light that may have some benefits is a red light. Red light therapy uses low levels to treat different ailments. It’s a form of therapy that has promising evidence despite the science still out there.
Red light therapy may help with healing your wounds and repairing your tissues. This is important if you have a wound that is slow to heal. Besides healing wounds, it may be effective towards certain kinds of pain. Red light could be effective with your skin’s complexion and how your scars heal, too.
There are many reasons to look into red light therapy. It’s something that you should try in addition to seeking traditional treatments, however, since many of its effects are yet to be proven.
Another form of light therapy that could make you happier is green light therapy. If you’ve sat in traffic, you know how happy green lights can make you feel, but they’re beneficial in more ways than just getting to move. For example, if you look at the green light, it may help to lower your chronic pain. Staring at green light could also have other health benefits, such as reducing your inflammation.
This is another form of light therapy where the science is still out. Always talk to your doctor and make sure they give you permission for you to treat yourself.
Wrapping it Up
Light, be it natural or artificial, can have a slew of health benefits and concerns. Some types of light help and others may keep you up at night. Not to mention, there are certain types of light that may have health benefits, but they aren’t proven.
Besides light therapy, seeking help from a licensed therapist is also important. Websites such as BetterHelp provide online counseling from the blue light of a screen. If you’re having any mental health problems, you can talk to a licensed therapist there and get the help you need.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.