SLEEP STUFF: Light therapy

It may not occur to some people with sleep problems that light might be both their problem and their solution. Controlling light exposure at key times during the day is important for keeping fixed to normal circadian rhythms.

The people who often struggle most with finding quality sleep are also the ones working night shift or who stay up too late while on their computers. Their exposures to artificial light at these hours makes sleep harder to achieve due to the way that the eyes and skin absorb light; this absorption can literally turn off your brain’s melatonin production. It’s melatonin that helps the body transition from wakefulness to sleep.

On the flip side, people who are sleepy during the day often live in climates where the fall and winter bring longer periods of darkness during the day. Less exposure to quality light (natural or artificial) first thing in the morning can lead to daytime sleepiness as well as mood changes.

There are a few different products on the market geared to help people gain some better control over their light exposure. As always, discuss these options with your physician. In some cases, they might even be able to prescribe light therapy, if it’s warranted, and insurance may then cover some or all of the expense.

Neuro:On Mask with Circadian Lighting
This is a wearable sleep mask that uses a “smart wakeup” technology to help you fall asleep and to wake you up at the optimal time in the morning, usually after you have completed your last REM cycle and have moved into a lighter stage of sleep. It measures several biological signals like brain waves, muscle tension, eye movements, pulse, core temperature and more via Bluetooth 4.0 LE-compliant digital analysis. For those who struggle with an irregular sleep schedule, general restlessness and jet lag, the NeuroOn might be a useful solution. It runs about $300. Learn more

FeelBrightLight Visor
You might have seen these before: visors that have lights built underneath their brims. These lights shine specific kinds of colored light indirectly above the eyes to help improve energy and mood. They offer a device you can clip to any visor you already have for around $110 and a deluxe version that includes a carrying case and a visor for $150. This could be a good option for people who need to move about and desire a hands-free solution to daytime sleepiness. Learn more

Philips Wake-Up Light
This attractive round light props up on a table, desk or nightstand nearby and can be used to help you fall asleep or wake up more gently depending upon how you program it. Its chief job is to stimulate sunrise and sunset lighting. Dimmer light at night is better for achieving sleep onset, while gradual illumination to morning sunlight aids in waking. This device also includes an option so you can awaken to pleasing natural sounds. Priced between $70 and $170, depending upon features. Learn more

Here’s another wearable light therapy device, worn like a pair of lightweight and nonrestrictive goggles, that uses green spectrum light. It is designed to fit the majority of the population (“one size fits most”) and its manufacturers claim it can bring relief to users in as little as three days following specific therapy protocols. It is used by people with delayed sleep phase syndrome (night owls who need to shift their sleep phases earlier), people with advanced sleep phase syndrome (morning larks who need to shift their sleep phases later), shiftworkers and those suffering from chronic jet lag. Prices run around $300. Learn more

About Tamara Kaye Sellman (621 Articles)

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