Marla Ahlgrimm: Light Therapy Q&A

Marla AhlgrimmLight therapy is often associated with treating seasonal affective disorder. However, light can affect more than the winter blues, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Keep reading for insight on how scheduled exposure to certain types of light can affect your hormones.

Q: What is light therapy?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Light therapy is the use of special lights that mimic the rays of the sun. It utilizes what is known as blue light to have a positive impact on the brain. The brain is affected by light in many ways and releases chemicals in response to daylight as well as dark. Light therapy triggers the production of serotonin, a hormone that lends to positive feelings.

Q: How does light therapy help treat sleeping disorders?

Marla Ahlgrimm: The body is designed to work on an internal clock. This circadian rhythm follows cycle of the sun, where we are more awake during the day and ready to sleep as the sun goes down. People with sleeping disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome have difficulty regulating their internal clock. Using light therapy can help control the body’s release of melatonin, a chemical associated with falling – and staying – sleep.

Q: When this light therapy most beneficial?

Marla Ahlgrimm: For people with sleeping disorders, light therapy is most useful first thing in the morning, within an hour of rising. This saturates the eyes, and thus the brain, with the type of light it needs to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Most sleep therapist recommend between 30 minutes and three hours of light therapy daily.

Q: What are the side effects of light therapy?

Marla Ahlgrimm: There are no known negative side effects to light therapy when done correctly. However, if you sit too close to the light emitting device, your pupils can constrict, which allows less light to enter your eye and will essentially render therapy useless.

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