Is there any evidence for red light therapy as a treatment for symptoms of depression?
In recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity of red light therapy for symptoms of depression.
It is the process of exposure to light, specifically a special red light, that is believed to treat a range of conditions, including stress, insomnia, and even high blood pressure.
This article explores the latest evidence for red light therapy, including which conditions it can help, how much red light is needed, and the best type of treatment.
Causes of depression
Red light therapy may be able to reduce symptoms of depression. Red light therapy may be able to reduce symptoms of depression.
Psychological and physical stress cause the brain to release cortisol, which then affects the body’s endocrine system, including the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
With the depletion of serotonin, the production of other neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) reduces. These decrease the feeling of happiness, and as a result, the person may start to experience symptoms of depression.
Red light therapy works by helping to restore the body’s balance. The light is concentrated in a certain part of the brain that is most often involved in the depressive symptoms of depression.
The light creates an “echo” effect that makes the brain think that the light is coming from a body part, and stimulates the part of the brain that produces dopamine.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the chances of a person suffering with depression being advised to use red light therapy are low.
The strongest benefits are seen in those with severe depression and in those who have tried medication for long periods without an effect.
Which conditions does it treat?
Red light therapy can treat a range of conditions, including stress, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
Some research has suggested that the use of red light therapy can reduce stress in people with mild stress. However, the effects of the treatment are less conclusive in cases of severe stress.
Red light therapy is also useful for stress management and coping with acute trauma.
Healthy sleep patterns
Red light therapy is thought to help improve sleep patterns. This is because light stimulates the production of melatonin, which promotes the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin.
According to one study, participants who were assigned to use red light therapy saw an improvement in the frequency of sleep awakenings within 24 hours.
Light therapy for insomnia
Red light therapy may help improve sleep patterns in people with insomnia. Red light therapy may help improve sleep patterns in people with insomnia.
Infrequent sleep patterns are the most common reason people are diagnosed with insomnia.
Regular, disrupted sleep is linked to a number of health issues including depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.
A study published in 2014 examined how the use of red light therapy for insomnia can help to improve sleep. Participants were asked to spend two weeks either sleeping in a dimly lit room for 15 minutes, or an elevated bed for 30 minutes.
Results showed that exposure to red light therapy improved sleep quality and reduced participants’ need for sleep medication.
High blood pressure
One of the risks of high blood pressure is that it can put strain on the heart and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Another serious risk of high blood pressure is the development of secondary conditions, such as vision loss, that can lead to loss of eyesight.
Regular blood pressure monitoring, followed by the use of medication, can prevent many of these symptoms. Red light therapy may also help to alleviate them.
Light therapy for depression
One of the main concerns of using red light therapy to treat depression is that it may reduce dopamine levels, but a review article published in 2016 suggests otherwise.
The article concluded that light therapy is an effective treatment for depression, and the presence of dopamine in the brain is a good sign. They wrote:
“Red light has been investigated in the treatment of depression in humans. It improves mood, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It is used in different therapeutic modalities as a monotherapy and/or adjunctive therapy. With respect to depression, red light therapy has shown preliminary evidence of beneficial effects, but additional studies are warranted to evaluate its efficacy in this condition.”
Red light therapy for insomnia
A 2014 study published in the journal International Neuropsychopharmacology assessed the effects of different types of light on the brain. The study found that exposure to red light could aid sleep.
However, the researchers warned that exposure to red light therapy may have side effects and should only be used in conjunction with other types of treatment.
Although red light therapy has a number of studies to support its use, there is still much work to be done.
Many studies are unable to establish whether red light therapy directly affects the brain and the brain pathways involved in depression and insomnia. Furthermore, the quality of many of the studies is very low.
The time of day of a person’s exposure to red light may also impact how well the therapy works.
There are several red light boxes on the market. Some are expensive and need to be recharged daily. These boxes do not work like traditional light therapy light boxes, which emit a targeted, wavelength of light that can cause a reaction in the body.