With fall just around the corner, you must be having nightmares thinking about the symptoms waiting for you during that season. Yes, we are talking about the Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, that ruins the lives of five percent of the U.S population during the same period each year, according to a study published by Darren Cotterell. But SAD is only an extreme case, and light depressions during winter are more frequent as they affect 25% of the population every year.
The light sensitivity, caused by the switching of seasons, turns the lives of the unfortunate holders of the disease upside down. Besides vitamin D deficiency, the harmonic changes, which occur because of the changes that happen to the circadian rhythm, can also cause depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder, both of which can wreak havoc on your body. SAD, or winter blues, is a major depression disease that is confirmed if the patient suffers from at least three episodes of mood disturbance during three separate winter seasons.
If you’re suffering from such mood swings that ruin the fun of the icy season each year, we have good news for you, a treatment that has proven effective against such issues; Light therapy. Not only is this treatment effective against seasonal depression, but it has also proven potent against other diseases such as Arthritis and bipolar disorder. After consulting a doctor, you can get a Light Therapy Box and avoid affective problems altogether.
There are three colors when it comes to light therapy, blue, red, and white. To get a better understanding of how they work, we’ve detailed the different types of light therapy for you to understand the uses of each one.
How Does Light Therapy Work?
To keep things simple, a Light Therapy Box emits light that is similar to that provided by the sun during summer. It’s all about changing the frequency that determines the signal. That way, the inner circadian clock performs as if it’s summertime, not winter. That ultimately results in hormonal regulation and a return of the mood to a healthy state.
It’s basically the same effects that dietary supplements provide, but instead of regulation nutrients’ level, the Light Therapy Box provides the benefits of sunlight without having to go outside to get it. For example, a Vitamin D Lamp emits light in the same frequency as the sun’s signal to cover the deficiency of this vitamin during winter.
The actual process is much more complicated, and the exact mechanism is yet to be known, but that’s a brief explanation of the way White, Blue, and Red Light Therapy Devices work.
Differences Between Red and Blue and White Spectrums
As stated above, light therapy comes in three colors: blue, white, and red, each of which has its own Light Therapy Box and application.
Blue Light Therapy
It has been known for years in the scientific community that blue light, when applied in the right timing, is crucial for our health.
Our eyes analyze this spectrum, with a 446 – 477 nm wavelength, thanks to blue light photoreceptors, held by the melanopsin retinal ganglion cells that were first discovered back in 1998. These receptors have a direct connection to the pineal gland and the circadian rhythm, which explains the effectiveness of this light against hormonal swings. They also project on other regions of the brains and therefore control several aspects of the human psychology.
When these photoreceptors perceive blue light, coming from the sky or the sea, for example, they order the brain to stop releasing melanin, which is the hormone that gets you sleepy at night, thus resulting in waking you up entirely. That’s why going to the beach or looking at the blue sky is so refreshing.
The best source of blue light is the sun and getting healthy amounts of that colored spectrum during the day results in a proper melatonin release and therefore better sleep during the night. On the other hand, blue light can be harmful at night for the same reason it’s good during the day: melatonin release. Exposing your eyes to such light during the night results in disturbed sleep. For that very reason, you need to consult a physician before opting for such therapy to determine the right timing.
If you live in a dark environment or work in an office without windows, it’s essential to get a blue light supplementation by using a proper Light Therapy Box at the right time. Furthermore, receiving such treatment becomes crucial if you’re suffering from psychological diseases such as Insomnia, DSPS, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, as exposure to blue wavelengths during the day regulates melatonin levels and promotes better sleep during the night. What’s even better is that such devices are suitable when you’re Travelling and for Teenagers as well.
Red Light Therapy
Red Light Therapy Devices are more common than blue ones as scientists have been trying to use low-level red wavelengths to heal atrophy, bone density issues, slow wound healing and similar diseases and issues for years. This treatment is known by many names, including photobiomodulation (PBM) and soft laser therapy.
Blue light vs. Red light
Unlike blue light therapy that stimulates hormones in the brain, red Light Therapy Glasses target the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, on work on strengthening it, which results in an increased ATP production and more energy in each cell. That results in a faster healing and an energized body, which boosts the mood and makes the organism physically better. In other words, not only is red light therapy effective for the treatment of SAD and mental diseases, but it can also be used for other body issues such as weak muscles, atrophy, and bone density problems.
All in all, despite the lack of details research on the matter, there is enough evidence nowadays to say that red light therapy can help with a plethora of health problems, including:
- Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Wood healing
- Hair growth
Although using this light therapy is entirely safe and painless, do not hesitate to pay your doctor a visit if you have any doubts or questions about the procedure.
White Light Therapy
White light is the closest to the full spectrum provided by the sun, that’s why it is widely used as a supplement for those suffering from SAD and other seasonal disorders. To put things into perspective, the sunlight can reach 50.000 lux, with lux being the measuring unit of light, while a white therapy lam can get you a decent 10.000 lux, which is pretty good, considering that it is intended as a supplement, not a replacement for sunlight.
Full spectrum light therapy, which uses all the colors in the electromagnetic wavelength, has been used over the years to treat various ailments ranging from skin conditions to tuberculosis. It isn’t recent though, as it started long ago when scientists and physicians began looking for ways to replicate the beneficial effects of sunlight during seasons with short days, which are winter and fall.
If you’re suffering from SAD or any other mental condition, make sure to contact your healthcare provider before getting a lightbox as the Mayo Clinic reports that you may experience a manic episode while exposing yourself to full spectrum therapy if you’re suffering from severe depression or a bipolar disorder. Also, consulting a physician is crucial if you are on a particular medication as light can alter the effects of some treatments.
White light vs. Red light vs. Blue light
Now, you may be wondering, why create blue light if white can replicate the sun’s full spectrum? The answer actually lies within those words. It’s true that white light can imitate the sunlight, but why apply the full range when you can emit selected ones, such as the blue and red wavelengths, to mimic specific effects that are needed for particular cases? In fact, science has revealed that even though full spectrum boxes can stimulate Melanopsin photoreceptors, applying blue light alone is more effective and gives better results.
Explanations differ for this subject, as some scientists believe that the massive 10.000 lux capacity of the white light can overstimulate the eye’s receptors which makes responding more difficult, while others stand by the explanation saying that a spectral opponency can be created by opposite wavelengths, which leads to a cancellation of the blue light efficiency.
That’s the beauty of light therapies, and that’s the answer to the famous debate comparing blue, red and white treatments, as the same concept applies to the red color as well.
Understanding the differences between the various color spectrums of light therapy can help you determine which type suits you best, but keep in mind that you need to consult your health care provider as they are the only one capable of knowing what is best for your health. Seasonal Affective Disorders, as well as other diseases mentioned above, are real issues that shouldn’t be taken lightly if you want a long, healthy life.