Seasonal depression is real, and millions of Americans have a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The darker, colder times of year is thought to be when SAD is the worst for many people.
Organic Authority has written about how you can add more healthy, natural light to your days with red light therapy. This article focused on the skin and anti-aging benefits of red light therapy (RLT), used by Hollywood stars like the Kardashians and Jessica Alba for all-natural beauty and collagen treatments.
I’m the co-founder of Joovv, and we make some of the leading in-home RLT devices that many estheticians and Hollywood A-listers are using every day. But RLT is hardly just for skin and beauty. In fact, it has a huge base of clinical research behind it that shows a wide range of natural health benefits like improved sleep, pain relief, hormone regulation, and fitness & performance gains. Some leading mental health researchers and physicians are even using it to treat patients and reduce the symptoms of SAD.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work?
During a red light therapy session, your body absorbs wavelengths of natural red and near infrared light. It’s just like the wavelengths you’d get from sunlight, but without the heat or damaging UV rays. This is why red light therapy is gaining popularity as a solution for SAD: it’s a safe, easy way to add natural light to your day without the need for sunny weather.
Natural light stimulates the mitochondria in your cells and helps your body increase your adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy production. (To understand why this is so important, check out Organic Authority's guide to keeping your mitochondria healthy and strong.)
This increased cellular energy from natural light makes a big difference for skin health, sleep, and inflammation relief. And new science and research shows big potential for SAD and depression as well. In 2018, the Elated-2 Pilot Trial tested the effects of red light therapy treatments on people with major depression over the course of eight weeks. The research team wrote that RLT showed antidepressant properties and was safe, easy to use, and well-tolerated.
Seasonal Depression and Red Light Therapy
Most people already know about “SAD lamps.” These are the lamps that mimic the sun with super-bright artificial light. They definitely light up a dark room, but ultimately it’s still just artificial blue light, not natural light like the sun.
By contrast, a medical-grade red light therapy device like Joovv actually lets your body bask in a clinically-relevant dose of natural light in just 10-15 minutes. It’s quick, easy, and there are almost no risks or side effects.
Dr. Marc Schoen of UCLA Medical School has over 25 years of experience treating mental health disorders.
Dr. Schoen has also spoken about how red and near infrared light therapy can improve anxiety and compulsive disorders. He’s one of a growing number of researchers and physicians using Joovv devices or other RLT products to improve mental health outcomes.
Sleep, Depression, and Natural Light
Many people who struggle with depression have sleep disorders too, and this is another area where red light therapy treatments are making a big impact on natural health.
Light is a major cue for your brain, telling you when your body should sleep and be awake. When people are surrounded by bright, artificial light from screens all the time, it can seriously throw your circadian rhythm out of whack. Every time we look at our phones or watch TV or use a laptop, we’re subjecting our eyes to intensely bright light—light with a higher color temperature than the noonday sun.
Red light therapy is a much gentler color of light, and it’s been shown in studies to help your brain re-establish a consistent sleep cycle and produce more natural melatonin. Getting quality sleep can go a long way for your mental health, especially in the winter.
The Future of RLT and SAD
With the recent clinical successes around natural light, and given how easy it is to use a red light therapy device in your home, I expect RLT to become a bigger part of peoples’ mental health and self-care routines. More and more studies are coming out all the time showing a huge range of health benefits from natural light. The work on SAD and depression is especially promising for people with the “Winter Blues.”
There’s nothing we can do about how early it gets dark at this time of year. But with a quality red light therapy device like Joovv, you can make sure your body is getting all the natural light it needs.
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