As so many of us struggle to pick up a good night’s sleep, I tried something called “red light sleep therapy” for two weeks, and it improved how I slept.
While blue light tends to keep us awake, red light has the opposite effect. Studies have shown that the longer wavelengths associated with red light may help to improve serotonin levels, which is a brain chemical responsible for regulating anxiety, happiness, and mood.
“Some other research suggests that red light therapy at night may also help you wake up more alert and ready for the day,” wrote Men’s Health.
“Waking up ready to start your day by using red lights may be useful for people in certain professions such as first responders, medical residents, and those who work extended hours, overnight shifts, and even just have busy schedules in general.”
Over my two-week red light experiment, it seemed to enhance my sleep.
How to use a red light to improve your sleep
I used a red LED lightbox, which can be picked up online from anywhere between a couple of bucks to several hundred dollars, in my bedroom for about 20 minutes before turning out the light and going to sleep. In the morning, I felt noticeably more well-rested and ready to start the day.
If I didn’t use the red light for a number of days, my sleep returned back to normal.
“The most effective light therapy is consistent and properly timed—that usually means integrating light therapy sessions into your daily life,” wrote the Sleep Foundation. When possible, keep as consistent of a sleep schedule as you can and be regimented with your exposure to your red light. Turn it on and off at the same time every night.
“You can read, use a computer, write, talk, or do other activities while sitting in front of your lightbox.” Though at night, avoid these types of light if possible.
According to the sleep foundation, red light mimics light from the outdoors, which helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and the “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle and respond primarily to light and darkness in the environment.”
The foundation also recommends using a red lightbox under the supervision of a doctor or therapist, especially if you suffer from an eye disorder.
More studies are required
Note that more research needs to be done before drawing any definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of light therapy on a larger population.
“The studies that are available have small sample sizes with no specific focus on treating sleep disorders. As a result, we still have a lot to learn about exactly how red light therapy affects people with different sleep cycle abnormalities,” wrote Men’s Health.
Don’t want to try red light therapy quite yet? Try improving your sleep by eliminating those stimuli that keep you awake.
“Instead of flooding yourself with red light to sleep better, you might just want to cut back on the amount of blue light you get. Power down your screens about two hours before bedtime and do something else relaxing before you hit the sheets.”