Updated: Jun 13, 2022
What do red and blue light have to do with your health?
Circadian rhythm and red light therapy are among the hottest health trends of 2020.
If you have seasoned a winter north of the 45th parallel, you may be well aware of the effects
that light can have on your health. But how in the world would light, specifically certain
wavelengths of light (blue / red / near infrared), result in changes in your biology or health?
The answer is relatively simple. Some cells, even outside of the eye, have photoreceptors in
their membranes called opsins and cryptochromes. Once activated, they can signal into the cell to perform actions such as turning up or down genes, increasing circulation, stimulating lymphatics, etc. Light to help boost energy, mood, recovery rate, and even the appearance of your skin.
Red light therapy can help boost energy, mood, recovery, improve the appearance of the skin, increase blood flow/circulation delivering more oxygen to cells, activate the lymphatic system, and improve sleep quality. Other benefits include reducing pain and inflammation. By lowering the effects of oxidative stress or free radical damage, the effects of aging are slowed down. The year 2020 marks 60 years for medical laser treatments like red light therapy, providing a host of evidence regarding the benefits.
What about blue light? Do we take our easy access to artificial lighting for granted? While blue light is beneficial during daylight hours because it can boost attention, reaction times, and mood, we may be paying the price with our health when in artificial lighting after sundown.
Electronics with screens and energy efficient lighting are increasing our exposure to blue
wavelengths. Blue light at night disrupts the biological clock, or circadian rhythm. The blue
light inhibits release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and is normally released at night in the right conditions (lack of artificial light containing the blue light spectrum). Sleep
suffers. In 2019, public awareness of how vital sleep is to health peaked.
Even a small amount of light containing the blue light spectrum can be disruptive...and the
light does not have to enter through our eyes to have the biological effect!
What can you do?
Expose yourself to bright light containing the blue light spectrum as early as possible after waking. The early morning sun is the best choice.
Purchase blue light blocking glasses to wear at sundown or during overnight shift work.
Use nightshift on your phone, or other blue light removing programs such as f.lux
Use lighting indoors at night without blue light spectrum, such as https://healthelighting.com. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs and LED lights tend to produce more blue light than old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs.
Replace night lights with dim red bulbs (especially in the bathroom for the middle of the night)
Avoid looking at bright screens 2-3 hours before bed
Seek out red light therapy to combat the effects of artificial light.
You would be surprised how making the small changes above can improve your sleep, your
recovery time, your mood and your energy!