Do You Need Therapy?
Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Red and near infrared light therapy is a relatively new way to improve our health and wellbeing. I had not heard about this until recently when listening to one of my favorite podcasts, "Cleaning Up the Mental Mess" with Dr. Caroline Leaf. She's written several books and holds degrees in all things brain related. I love listening to her because she has a lovely South African accent and is full of brain and mental health knowledge! Anyway, she had a representative on from Joovv, a company that makes red and near infrared light panels. There has been a great deal of information regarding red and near infrared therapy in the wound healing of animals and in traumatic brain injury in atheletes. It's not fully researched, and it's uncertain what it may or may not be useful for.
The mechanism behind how it works is that it stimulates the mitochondria in tissue cells to release ATP (a form of energy needed by the cell to function) which then aids to improve cellular metabolism and promote healing of damaged tissue. The difference between red and near infrared is it's wave frequency. Bear with me, this point is important. Red waves have a frequency about 660nm and near infrared waves have a frequency of about 850nm. The frequency determines how deep the waves penetrate the tissues of the body. Red waves are used more for skin issues and near infrared can affect muscle, joints, and brain. These waves are not to be confused with infrared light waves. Infrared light waves have a different wave length and provide a different function. They give off heat and are used in saunas or cooking. We will not be cooking ourselves here.
We are surrounded by blue light waves all day from the lights we use in our house, especially those weird looking LED lights. While these lights save money, they do not emit anything but blue waves. There are many health and wellness folks that feel this has messed with our moods and affected our sleep patterns. Blue light makes your brain think it's daytime when it's not and affects your brain's melatonin levels needed for sleep. To help with sleeping difficulties, experts have recommended to turn off all blue light emitting devices (cell phones, computers, and TV) 1-3 hours before bedtime and to use melatonin. Now, you can add red and near infrared, specifically the latter, to your regimen to help with sleep.
Red light therapy has been used by skin estheticians and dermatologists to treat acne, fight signs of aging, and heal scars or wounds. The near infrared has been used to help with muscle recovery after exercise or sports events. It may also help with the inflammation in joints of those with arthritis, may improve mood disorders, and aid in weight loss. There is a great deal of benefits being touted by those in the red light and near infrared light industry. However, does it work?
If you go to the Joovv website, you can see these lights can be rather expensive ($1000's). Joovv creates them in panels for you to hang over your door or place on a stand. The instructions are to direct the light on your body or a specific area of your body for 5-25 minutes depending on your device, problem, and area. You can do it once or twice a day. While Joovv does give a money back guarantee, it's still too pricey for me to just buy it to try it out. I have a kid in college! I did find a small light on Amazon called the Stardust. It had great reviews, and it was only $60. It's in the picture at the top. I bought it for the good of our group!!! I needed to try it so I could tell you how it works, right?!?!
You can imagine what my husband must of thought the first time he saw red light pouring from the door of my bedroom! "Roooox-annnne!" There I lay with this thing shining on my face, chest and head. I wanted this light on my face and chest!!! I'm starting to look like a melting shar pei as I age, and the dark circles from by Cuban heritage have worsened to raccoon status over the years! My sleep isn't great either! I have struggled with that for several years, and I'm sure there are MANY reasons for my sleep issues. I have used meds like klonopin in the past, but when studies came out saying there was an increased risk of early onset dementia from just a small amount of use, I realized I needed to do something else. I did not need any help losing my mind!!!
I've been trying red and near infrared therapy for about a month. I'm not really sure it's helped. My skin and dark circles look better, but that could just be because I'm not working or taking call right now. Not sure if it's helped my sleep either. I do use melatonin 3mg each night. I have gotten to the point that I don't need it every night. I have also gotten to the point that I'm not sleeping 8-10 hours per night either. I only seem to need 6-7 hours to feel rested. Again, could be due to no call in 6 weeks and improved stress levels.
I know that hormones, adrenal function, thyroid function, neurotransmitter secretion in the brain, and gut health, along with poor sleep habits like watching TV in bed and sleeping with lights on can all contribute to insomnia. I do not believe that red light therapy alone will solve the insomnia problem or any of the other problems as advertised on light therapy websites. However, it may be a good addition to whatever routine you've already established. Also, when correcting poor sleep habits and dysfunction in hormones, adrenal function, thyroid function, neurotransmitter secretion in the brain, and gut health, it can take months for improvement to be obvious, especially if the stressors are still present that caused the dysfunction in the first place.
Would I invest in a large panel from a company like Joovv? The jury is still out on that. I do know that I can try out the Joovv panels at a local spa. I may do that to see if there is a difference between the Joovv light source and my little $60 Stardust light source. My goal is to come up with a natural regimen that will help me with sleep and my other "ailments" so as not to need any medications. So far.....I guess my methods are working! I'll keep y'all posted.
Disclaimer: While I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. The information in this blog post is for information and entertainment purposes only and are not intended as medical advice!