Back at the end of 2019 (I know that’s a long time ago now and the ‘good old days’ pre COVID-19), I was exploring ways of improving health and kept coming across Red Light Therapy (RLT). A number of podcasts with medical doctors and scientists kept listing all these amazing benefits it can have on our sleep, recovery and performance. Once I heard Chris Kresser, M. S on his podcast say that red light therapy could impact every cell in our bodies, that was it – I wanted to know more and wanted to test it for myself.
I was lucky that an old friend from my rugby days was actually much further down the line in exploring Red Light Therapy. James Strong, who I’d played rugby against numerous times had started the company Red Light Rising, having experienced the benefits himself when using it to heal his own broken body from years of rugby.
He set out with his business partner Bryan Gohl to produce the best, high intensity red light therapy products on the market using the research-backed, most effective wavelengths of red and near infrared light. There are 100’s if not 1000’s of peer reviewed studies and research on the benefits of red light therapy and which wavelengths of red and near infrared light are most effective, which they’ve used to produce their awesome Red Light Rising products.
Red light therapy is not just a red filter on a normal light. It’s not even just red light. The red light rising products that we use and recommend are both red and near infrared wavelengths of light.
So what actually is red light therapy?
RLT is a science-backed therapy which uses the healing properties of red and near infrared light to bring great energy production benefits to all the cells of the body as well as promoting the body’s own internal anti-inflammatory systems, benefiting sleep, recovery, your immune system and much more.
Briefly, the treatment involves exposing the skin of the body to a powerful Red Light Rising device and letting the body absorb the light for as little as only 8 minutes per session.
I’ve personally found the benefits of Red Light Therapy (RLT) on my sleep by helping to maintain a healthy and regular circadian rhythm. As we transition into the winter months in the United Kingdom and get less light exposure, the use of RLT becomes even more important. RLT has been shown to increase melatonin production (the sleep inducing hormone)[ 1 , 2 ]. Why is melatonin production so important? Well in order to maintain a good circadian rhythm it’s important we get light exposure. Using the RLT first thing in the morning helps to tell the body it’s morning and time to get up and mimic the sunrise with the red light.
In the United Kingdom, during winter we don’t have the luxury of staying in bed until the sun rises (lucky you if you do!) and if you’re anything like us, you want to get up and get started with your day. So having access to RLT at that time in the morning keeps hormonal signalling regular. That said, once the sun is up and you are able to take a break, get out in that direct sunlight. Even if it’s cloudy and doesn’t seem like the sun is there, it still is and that sun exposure to your skin is so important during the day. You want your body to know it’s day time.
These natural light signals tell your brain it certainly is day time and will promote your day time hormones and begin the body’s internal countdown to sleep. But if you work from home or in an office, the year of 2020 and all its lockdowns and restriction has meant it’s far too easy to not even leave the house and miss out on that natural sun exposure.
The other thing that I’ve found really beneficial to my sleep is reducing the artificial light exposure in the evenings. That means limiting screen time as the blue light from TVs, computers and mobile phones keep telling the brain it’s day time and not time for going to sleep. Essentially taking our circadian rhythm out of sync.
Now that can be easier said than done, certainly no phones in the bedroom as sitting on your phone in bed not only will mess up any circadian rhythms you might be trying to harness but also impact your relationships!
But at times we have to use our computers and mobile phone or want to watch TV in the evenings, so we need a way to protect our eyes. That’s where the blue light blocking glasses are a life saver. A few years ago, I bought a pair of blue light blocking glasses but they were terrible, cheap and looked awful so you never wanted to actually wear them. That’s why I was so excited when Red Light Rising announced they were bringing out their ‘blue light blocking glasses‘. Knowing that they put quality and style at the top of the agenda, I knew they’d be something I use every single day. The yellow lenses block out 95% of blue light for when working on my computer in the later afternoon and then the red lenses which block out 100% the last hour before bed.
I’ve got one of the target red light in the bedroom that I use not just for targeting specific sore muscles or body parts from training but as a reading light that doesn’t affect circadian rhythm in that final time before bed when I like to read a book – but you can’t do that in the dark!
My wife Karen moved to the UK from South Africa 13 years ago and I have spent a number of years living and working in countries blessed with better climates that old Blighty. It’s fair to say that we both struggle with the dark winter months that cloak the UK from October to March. That’s 6 months where we find our general mood is negatively affected.
We have got a Full Stack Red Light that comes downstairs in the morning as it is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee first thing and it feels like the next best thing to actually going outside and spending some time in the sunlight. In the evening it comes back to bed with us where I’ll sit in front of it and read. We both find the red light really effective at helping us wake up in the morning and get ready to sleep. It’s actually a really soothing way to start and finish the day.
As Jacko has mentioned, there is a stack of research highlighting the potential benefits but what I think speaks volumes is that using it is never a chore. You just can’t say that for everything we’re supposed to do that is ‘good for us’. We use the red light every single day, without fail. It’s not something we have to force ourselves to engage with. It is something we choose to do because it makes us feel better.
The winters in the UK are always going to be bleak but a dose of red light therapy twice a day is certainly making them more tolerable.
I’ll finish with this, the other day Karen was sat in bed in the morning and I got up and flicked the light on. Without thinking she just said ‘Ahhh, that’s nice’! To me, that is just as valuable as any peer-reviewed research journal.