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Red Light Therapy And Its Potential Role In Combating Seasonal Depression

Don’t underestimate that familiar yearly emotion as just a bout of the “winter blues” or a seasonal low that you must endure by yourself. If shorter days and weather changes are sapping your energy and making you feel down, you might be experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s the kind of blues that tags along with changes in daylight and weather, mostly showing up during the fall and winter months. It affects how someone feels and their general state of being. A considerable number of individuals around the world experience this condition. They notice these mysterious shifts in mood, energy levels, and just how they’re feeling overall.

 

While the exact cause of SAD is uncertain, it’s believed to be linked to changes in sunlight exposure and how it messes with our internal biological clock. Lately, scientists and healthcare professionals have been looking into different ways to tackle seasonal depression. And interestingly enough, Red light therapy has stepped into the spotlight as a popular option! They call it low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), and it’s a non-invasive treatment that gets those cells in your body all fired up and ready to heal using specific wavelengths of light. In this article, we’ll look at the potential benefits of red light therapy for seasonal depression and the related clinical evidence.

 

What is Seasonal Depression?

 

In the mid-1980s, the first formal account of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the most widely recognized psychiatric condition linked to seasonal changes in humans, was presented by Rosenthal. He detailed a group of 29 patients residing in a temperate climate who went through depressive episodes characterized by increased sleep, heightened appetite, and weight gain during the fall or winter. Remarkably, their symptoms would subside by the arrival of the next spring or summer.

 

Seasonal depression usually starts in the late autumn or early winter and might last until the spring or summer. Symptoms of SAD may include:

 

  • Feeling sad or hopeless persistently
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Irregular sleep patterns, such as oversleeping or insomnia
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Issues related to concentration and problem in decision-making
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

 

As mentioned earlier, the exact cause of seasonal depression is not entirely clear. But it is believed to be linked to changes in sunlight exposure. The shorter daylight hours during the fall and winter months can throw off our internal body clock, also known as the circadian rhythm.

 

This built-in clock handles super important stuff in our bodies, like our sleep-wake cycles, our moods, and even the hormones we make.

 

When this natural rhythm gets messed up, it’s a big deal. It can mess with how we feel overall and even play a role in seasonal depression or SAD. Light exposure has a say in how much melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone, we make. For individuals with SAD, not getting enough sunlight might mean making too much melatonin, leading to feelings of tiredness and sluggishness.

 

And there’s more – not getting enough light can also mess with our serotonin levels, those are the ones responsible for our moods.

Importance of Light for our Mental Wellbeing

The importance of light for our mental health is widely recognised. Studies have shown that light plays an important part in controlling our natural daily cycle, often known as the circadian rhythm.  It’s crucial to have exposure to bright light during the day and then sleep in darkness at night. However, because most of us spend a significant amount of time indoors, we often receive little exposure to natural light. Not getting enough light exposure can actually be bad for our health and how we feel overall. And not getting enough light could lead to worse sleep, less energy, and maybe even fewer chances to socialize.

Spending extended periods indoors can really take a toll on our emotions, causing feelings of anxiety, stress, and sadness. Studies have even found that during COVID-19 lockdowns, there was a rise in diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. As a result, spending too much time indoors can have a negative impact on our mental health.

Red Light Therapy for Seasonal Depression

Red light therapy is making waves in the medical scene and for good reason!

Doctors are realizing it’s a potential game-changer. It’s not just about fixing skin troubles or healing injuries and dealing with pain and, – this therapy is showing promise in boosting mental health, like taking on the challenge of depression. The application of red or near-infrared light, which penetrates the skin and is absorbed by the cells, is used in this treatment. It’s like giving our cells a little boost of energy to help them do their job better. So, it’s no wonder that red light therapy is getting so much interest from the scientific community!

The mechanism of action behind red light therapy’s potential benefits for seasonal depression lies in its ability to influence cellular function and promote biological changes. When red or near-infrared light is absorbed by the cells, it stimulates the mitochondria, often referred to as the “powerhouses” of the cells. This process actually boosts the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is like the main energy source for cells.

The increased production of ATP in response to red light therapy has several potential effects on the body, including:

  • Enhanced Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Red light therapy may help regulate the body’s internal clock, which can positively influence sleep patterns and overall mood.
  • Increased Serotonin Production: Red light treatment may boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter related with mood control and well-being.
  • Reduced Melatonin Production: Red light therapy benefits by normalizing melatonin levels, thereby reducing symptoms of fatigue and lethargy.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Red light therapy actually helps calm down inflammation and oxidative stress, the culprits behind issues like depression and mood troubles.So, by using this therapy, we might be able to give our minds a  little boost and feel better overall!
  • Enhanced Blood Flow and Oxygenation: Improved circulation and oxygen delivery to tissues may contribute to better overall well-being and energy levels.

Red Light Therapy for Seasonal Depression: Clinical Evidence

 

Although it’s still in the early stages, researchers have been checking out how red light therapy could help with seasonal depression, and even with depression in general.

Harvard Medical School mentions that unique benefits of light therapy for seasonal depression and other types of depression. Unlike antidepressant medications that may take weeks to work and cause bothersome side effects, light therapy offers a more attractive alternative. For those who respond well to light therapy, improvements in depression symptoms are usually seen within a week, and the side effects, such as eye strain and headaches, are uncommon and mild. A study even reported a noticeable improvement after just one active light session.

Light therapy is particularly appealing for pregnant women and the elderly who may need to avoid or reduce medication use. Many older people, especially those who can’t move around easily, often spend time in places with low light. This can make them more likely to feel depressed. Trying light therapy could be a sensible option for them.

According to Michael Hamblin, a well-known researcher in photomedicine from Harvard Medical School and a member of Joovv’s Scientific Advisory Board, natural light is not only absorbed by the brain but also gets into our body through the skin.

Dr. Marc Schoen from UCLA Medical School, with over 25 years of experience in treating psychological disorders, has had success using natural light treatments in combination with medication and psychotherapy to treat patients’ acute, recurrent major depressive episodes. According to Dr. Schoen, when used alongside psychotherapy and/or hypnosis, red and NIR light therapy seems to accelerate patients’ recovery from an acute depressive state faster than other approaches he has tried.

Additionally, Dr. Schoen has observed that red and NIR light therapy can speed up the healing process for patients with serious depression, complementing pharmaceutical interventions, psychotherapy, and/or hypnosis, and reducing the time required for results to manifest.

In 2018, a group of prominent mental health researchers conducted the Elated-2 Pilot Trial, aiming to explore the potential of transcranial near infrared light therapy for individuals with major depression symptoms. This important trial, which involved a double-blind, controlled approach, was one of the first of its kind. Its positive results have raised hopes for using natural light treatments more widely in depression care.

Throughout the Elated-2 trial, patients with major depression received natural light treatments directed at their head twice a week, lasting for 8 weeks. The researchers from Elated-2 concluded that transcranial light therapy exhibited “antidepressant properties with a medium to large effect size in patients with major depressive disorder.” Importantly, the study’s researchers noted that the natural light treatments were well-tolerated by the patients, with no serious side effects or adverse reactions reported.

The SODOLUX X1200 660nm/850nm Full Body Pulsed Red Light Therapy Device has features that can contribute to combating depression. Here’s how:

Red Light Therapy And Its Potential Role In Combating Seasonal Depression - News - 3

  • Dual Wavelengths: This device offers both red (660nm) and near-infrared (850nm) wavelengths. Red light therapy benefits by improving mood and treating depressive symptoms. These wavelengths stimulate cell activity and trigger the release of nitric oxide, which could positively influence mood regulation.
  • Collagen Stimulation: Red light wavelengths are known to stimulate collagen production and improve skin health. This can boost self-esteem and confidence, which can play a crucial role in managing depression.
  • Energy Boost: Near-infrared wavelengths penetrate deeper into the tissues, delivering energy to cells. This can result in increased cellular metabolism and improved circulation, potentially enhancing overall energy levels and reducing feelings of fatigue commonly associated with depression.
  • Pain Relief: The device can provide pain relief through deep tissue penetration. This might help alleviate physical discomfort often associated with depression.
  • Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Exposure to light, especially in the morning, can help regulate the circadian rhythm, which plays a significant role in mood and sleep patterns. The SODOLUXA1200’s light therapy can simulate exposure to natural light, aiding in the regulation of the body’s internal clock and potentially improving sleep quality and mood.
  • User-Friendly: The device’s convenience and ease of use make it accessible for regular sessions, allowing individuals to incorporate light therapy into their daily routine. Consistent use over time may lead to cumulative benefits for mood and overall well-being.

While red light therapy may have potential benefits for depression management, it should not be used in place of professional medical care. Individuals with depression should consult a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment approach for their specific condition.

Conclusion

Seasonal depression has a significanl impact on an individual’s well-being and overall quality of life.

While medications and talk therapy have helped many, trying out alternative treatments like red light therapy are promising. The impact of red light treatment on cells, the potential for positive changes, and its role in regulating circadian rhythms and serotonin levels are all significant. This combination suggests that red light therapy for seasonal depression is a safe and effective treatment option.

As medical research advances, red light therapy’s importance will become more pronounced. It showcases its substantial potential, not only for seasonal affective disorder but also for a variety of mood-related issues that impact many people. But as we keep looking into the benefits of red light therapy for mood problems, it’s important to stress the need for advice from a healthcare professional before using it for seasonal depression.

The synergy of hope and innovation, the SODOLUX X1200 660nm/850nm Full Body Pulsed Red Light Therapy Device, stands out as a shining example of the potential that light therapy holds. With its FDA clearance, strong power output, and dual wavelength ability this device offers a promising option for those seeking an alternative way to manage seasonal depression. Its ability to promote cell regeneration, improve circulation, and improve general well-being makes it an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

Looking ahead, it’s apparent that the road illuminated by red light therapy, as well as breakthrough devices like the Sodolux device, holds the promise of brighter days for individuals seeking treatment from the shadows of seasonal depression or SAD.