There is something inherently introspective about these shorter fall and upcoming winter days: the less natural light in our surroundings, not only do we retreat indoors, but also into ourselves...
Perhaps more than any other time of the year, how we “light ourselves” is paramount. With more time spent indoors, there’s more time spent under our lighting, time under light bulbs, and in front of light therapy devices.
And so, with this in mind, we write today to shed some light on the differences and usages between bright light therapy and red light therapy! Let’s understand each a bit better…
First, What is Light Therapy?
When talking light therapy there are two main types: bright light therapy to help with Seasonal Depression (SAD) from a lack of light in the environment, or Red/Infrared Light Therapy.
Both use different parts of the light spectrum to achieve different outcomes. Let’s explore...
What is Bright Light Therapy?
Using very bright white visible light to help eradicate SAD (winter blues) or to help set your circadian rhythm.
Light therapy, or bright light therapy (usually provided by a full spectrum lightbox or full spectrum light pad), provides striking, powerful white light in a color temperature between 5000-6500K, consistent with the sun's color temperature at noon.
These units typically emit 10,000 lux (a measure of the perceived brightness of light - very bright!) of white/blue, more energetic wavelengths, intended to trigger a circadian response in our bodies. If you remember, we need bright white light that contains those blue light wavelengths to wake up and let our body/brain “set the clock" for a new day!
I don’t have SAD; do I need Bright Light Therapy?
While the most common use of bright light therapy has historically been for treating SAD, you don't need to suffer from a clinical diagnosis of SAD to enjoy bright light's stimulating and awakening benefits every morning!
In fact, since getting bright white light first thing every day is the most essential way to reset our daily clock and get energized for the day, you may want to consider supplementing actual morning sunlight by using a bright light therapy unit- especially on those darker, cloudier mornings!
Key Benefits of Bright Light Therapy Include
⚡️ Increased energy and alertness
🌓 Reset circadian rhythm and restored sleeping patterns
😊 Improved mood
✨ Better sleep
What is Red/Infrared Light Therapy?
Photobiomodulation: A combination of visible red light and invisible infrared light to help with energy support (cellular ATP production), collagen production, wound healing, pain management, and overall systemic and cellular health.
Red light falls into the visible part of the light spectrum between 630-750 nm on the electromagnetic spectrum and is readily absorbed by surface tissues and cells. For this reason, red light on its own is often used for skin health, wound healing, etc.
Since red light combined with near-infrared holds more power when used together, you’ll often find lamps and units offering combinations of wavelengths ranging from the red light to the near-infrared spectrum.
Near-infrared wavelengths fall into the invisible part of the light spectrum between 750 and 1400 nm, the wavelengths of light right after red visible light. Infrared light is felt at thermal energy or heat (like that emitted from a fire or incandescent light bulb).
While infrared light ranges much further (there also exists a mid-infrared and far infrared spectrum), near-infrared is the most widely studied and used infrared light spectrum.
Knowing what we know about light and wavelength length, infrared light has a longer wavelength than red visible light and can penetrate more deeply into the body, supplying beneficial light nourishment deep into our tissues, organs, and cells. Remember, approximately half of sunlight radiation itself is comprised of infrared light wavelengths!
Key Benefits of Red/Infrared Light Therapy:
⚡️Increased cellular energy and cellular ATP production
⚡️Soothed aches + pains
⚡️Improved mental acuity
⚡️An overall feeling of “wellness”
Many people dread fall/winter, but sometimes all that is needed is a bit more light!
So, enjoy Autumn's lovely fall colors and peaceful change of pace. Start every morning under the vibrant and nourishing energy of natural sunlight. Supplementing as necessary with the above lighting tools we’ve learned about!
Until next time, be well and well-lit!
P.S. Remember, adequate light exposure is linked to mood + energy, so keep your spaces well-lit during the day (and very dark and dim at night so you can fall asleep). Getting morning sunlight and using the colorfully uplifting light of Chromalux® throughout the day is usually enough to keep us happy and inspired through the darker months!