When it comes to health, sleep is everything. Healthy sleep isn’t so much about quantity as it is quality. Quality sleep, which is defined as deep, restful sleep on a consistent rhythm, improves nearly all aspects of the body and mind. In this article, we’ll talk about the mechanics of sleep, including circadian rhythm, nutrition, and bioreactive light. We’ll also explore how red light therapy can be used to enhance quality, restorative sleep.
SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Sleep is a requirement for optimal physical function and mental wellness. No amount of good nutrition or exercise can make up for the deleterious effects of poor sleep. Sleep is crucial for maintaining the body’s biological balance and cellular activity and plays a crucial role in supporting mental and emotional wellbeing.
The human body can be optimized. When your cells are creating and using energy as efficiently as possible, you will function and feel better overall. Conversely, a lack of quality sleep disrupts cellular function and creates systemic negative results.
Sleeping problems are very common among adults, especially in developed countries. To combat this issue, we must explore where sleep problems originate, how they affect us, and how we can turn them around.
THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF LOW-QUALITY SLEEP
Sleep deprivation affects us incrementally; the longer we go without restful sleep, the more the effects worsen. Even a small amount of sleep deprivation affects our mood and makes us less alert, lowering our reaction rate and decreasing productivity. Go longer without sleep, and major negative effects start to set in:
Inflammation: Unbalanced sleep impedes the body’s natural inflammatory response, leading to increased inflammation, soreness, and poor healing. Inflammation levels often rise in people who sleep for longer periods of time than is recommended, a testament to the importance of sleep quality over quantity.
Weight Gain: Sleep loss harms biological and metabolic balance. This leads to complications with digestion, insulin resistance, blood sugar, and can lead to increases in body weight. Setting a regular sleep cycle can help with these issues, as the body becomes accustomed to digesting, absorbing nutrients, and repairing at certain times.
Mental Acuity: Lack of sleep leads to slower response times, decreased alertness, and impaired judgement, and cognitive performance. These intertwine with emotional issues that arise with sleep loss, explaining why one of the first symptoms of sleep deprivation is irritability.
LIGHT AND THE SLEEP CYCLE
Sleep problems have been common among millions of people for ages. Newer science has revealed that sleep plays a huge role in this issue.
Our brains read light inputs as signals even when our eyes are closed. These signals are used to program our sleeping and waking cycles, as our circadian rhythm evolved around the cycle of the sun. Unnatural light interferes with this adaptation, and bright lights and screens that surround us now can seriously disrupt our natural sleep cycles.
You probably already know that blue light -- the light emitted from most screens and LED lights -- tells the body to wake up. Your body controls these responses using hormones, primarily cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol is a stress hormone that increases alertness, while melatonin primes the mind and body to enter a sleep state. Blue light directly increases the production of cortisol while reducing melatonin production.
This is an obvious problem when it’s time to go to bed. Experts recommend ending “screen time” well before bedtime, wearing blue light blocking glasses at night, dimming the lights in your house, reducing the brightness of your TV, and wearing sleep masks even after the lights are off.
Light isn’t the only factor that affects sleep. What and when we eat can affect the body’s ability to rest fully. Chemicals and supplements -- caffeine being the obvious example -- can seriously impede the body’s sleep cycle.
There are many lifestyle choices to be made when it comes to sleep. For some, this can be prohibitive due to work or family constraints. Ideally, you will be able to adjust your diet, daily exercise, and light intake as needed. One of the most important decisions to make, however, is when to go to bed and how long to sleep once we get there.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO SLEEP? HOW LONG SHOULD I SLEEP?
Not all sleep affords the complete benefits of a quality night of rest. Timing is just as important as quality and duration. Experts recommend following your natural circadian rhythm and matching your sleep cycle to the rising and setting of the sun.
Circadian rhythms are naturally occurring processes that help govern numerous biological functions. Our bodies evolved to operate on this roughly 24-hour cycle, and many behind-the-scenes functions of the body adhere to it. We all perform at our best when we align our sleep to this natural adaptation.
This internal clock is tied closely to the sun and thus is “programmed” using light in the environment. Without artificial lighting and screens to disrupt this system, your body will naturally sync with earth’s day/night cycle. This is because our bodies function best with ample sunlight during waking hours and darkness while we sleep.
Anyone who has worked third shift can tell you that even when getting eight hours of sleep, the fact that those hours are taken during morning daylight hours makes the quality of that sleep very low.
DOES RED LIGHT HELP WITH SLEEP?
We’ve established that light is important for sleep, especially avoiding blue light before bed. But can additional light actually help you sleep? If used correctly, studies have shown that certain types of light can actually support the natural sleep rhythm.
Red light therapy treatments are one of those possibilities. Red light devices are designed to enhance cellular function and support a balanced lifestyle, and that includes restful sleep.
Red light or NIR therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment that uses specialized bulbs to deliver wavelengths of red and near-infrared (NIR) light directly to the body. This affords several clinically-proven benefits, such as enhanced cellular function and improved circulation. You can read this article to learn more about how red light therapy works.
HOW DOES RED LIGHT SUPPORT HEALTHY SLEEP?
Our bodies need ample natural light every day, but most people don’t get enough. Most of us spend 90% of our time indoors, our light intake coming from artificial sources that actually do more harm than good. Fluorescent lights don’t give us the infrared and red light that our bodies have evolved to absorb over millions of years -- and those notorious flickering bulbs can wreak havoc with our ability to fall asleep at night.
TheraBulb products send concentrated wavelengths of red and NIR light to the body helping to deliver the much-needed NIR and red light that we would normally absorb straight from the sun. This gives you the same benefits as light from full-spectrum sunlight, but leaves out the UV rays, excess heat, and risks of overexposure.
HOW TO USE RED LIGHT FOR SLEEP
You may be wondering how to best use red light therapy for sleep optimization, especially if your only source of red light therapy is a clinic or spa. Using red light to improve sleep is a matter of consistency, and daily doses of red/NIR light are recommended for the best results. This can be difficult if you have to travel to a commercial location for your therapy sessions (not to mention how expensive this can be in the long term).
The good news is that red light therapy is easy to have right at home. TheraBulb red light devices are affordable and safe to use. For less than the cost of a single visit to a typical spa, you can purchase a bulb that puts out concentrated red light and near infrared energy. With these bulbs, you can have unlimited sessions in the comfort of your own home.
TheraBulb products are the highest rated and provide the most optimal wavelengths of light for biomodulation and therapy purposes. Unlike red party bulbs or general-purpose heat bulbs, our bulbs are designed to produce energy in the 650nm-699nm wavelengths that define red light.
CONCLUSION: QUALITY SLEEP IS VITAL FOR TOTAL WELLNESS
Sleep impacts every aspect of our minds and bodies and is one of the main factors influencing our overall health. To live a balanced life, you must optimize your sleep pattern and sleep quality. Numerous lifestyle choices affect sleep, but one of the most influential environmental factors is light. You can improve your sleep by avoiding the wrong kinds of light, especially at night, and by supplementing your light intake with red light during the day.