Light Therapy for Sleep
Sleep disorders can have many causes and may be of many types; Insomnia is a familiar amongst the many types of sleeping disorders. Medication often proves to have worst side effects and the body builds a resistance or a dependency to the commonly used sleep drugs as well. Whether the causes to these sleep problems are deeply psychological or related to more common reasons such as seasonal affective disorder, light therapy, especially blue light and dawn simulation, have been highly effective in providing relief to patients and helping them sleep when they need and want to.
SAD, Insomnia, Circadian rhythm sleep disorder and Narcolepsy are the most common disorders that affect the sleeping patterns of people on a regular basis all over the world. These disorders are deeply related to the biological clock of the human body, and light treatment uses this clock by affecting its reactions through the use of bright light stimuli. This is done in order to ‘set’ this clock, allowing patients to sleep proper hours and at timings which cause the least disruption of normal daily hours for work and family life. The therapy is not used to cure any possible root cause (such as psychological causes – even though light therapy has had success in helping treat psychological disorders such as SAD and bipolar disorder), it generally elicits and reinforces desired behavior while offsetting the undesirable behavior by resetting the biological clock.
How light therapy affects Sleep cycles
Our body clock must be in sync with our natural inclination (natural cycle) in order to sleep well. This clock can be offset by a number of causes; such as depression, SAD (winter depression etc), illness or irregular sleeping hours. This lack of sleep and the offsetting of the natural clock can then lead to deeper effects such as increased depression, exhaustion and lack of energy and lack of sleep (insomnia).
Bright Light; Clinical tests have shown that the pineal gland in the eye is affected by the presence of any bright light. This gland acts to regulate our natural biological clock (the body clock), which, in turn is connected to our sleeping habits (the natural sleeping patterns our body adheres to come from the body clock), mood, sexual drive and even our eating habits.
Blue Light; The retinal receptor in the eye is the receptor that interprets and responds to the wavelength of the light entering the eye. Tests indicate that his receptor responds more to particular wavelengths of light, including blue light (405 to 425 nm). This receptor sends signals to the part of the brain (hypothalamus) which controls sleep, hormonal function and our emotion levels (moods.)
Therapy; Light therapy can be planned around the type of disorder. The schedule and frequency / duration of the treatment depends upon the type of disorder, how it affects the sleeping patterns (how much sleep is being attained and at what hours?) and what the possible causes are. The therapy can be scheduled to provide the stimulus using a light source (such as those found at clinics or the portable ones which can be used at home) at appropriate times in order to technically reset the biological clock (with the treatment continued over a set period of time) until the subject becomes accustomed to a desirable sleeping routine. The better sleep will in turn induce better moods and remove insomnia and lack of energy.