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Dr. Colleen Carney on the Benefits of Blue Light Therapy 

Spring may be close, but we’re not in the clear just yet. There’s still some time before the clocks get turned forward and we can bask in sweet daylight from morning to eve. Luckily, we have some tips for getting through the final stretch of winter.

Dr. Colleen Carney is the director of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University. She believes that understanding and changing the way we view insomnia and fatigue is a big part of the solution and has spent a lot time studying light therapy and sleep disorders. Here are some of her suggestions for optimizing the quality of our sleep and working through “the SADs.”

1. While many of us love caffeine and its much-needed boost in the morning, it can have negative effects on sleep. It also makes us more fatigued later in the day as we begin to crash and feel withdrawal symptoms. Blue light therapy can help with dips in energy and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. All you need is twenty minutes of exposure per day.

2. If you’re one of those peeps whose lids start feeling heavy in the evenings and you start nodding off in front of the TV or computer, your sleep is probably fragmented. A little blast of blue light (like the Philips goLITE BLU) in the evening can help you stay awake until bedtime and subsequently get a solid night’s sleep.

3. DYK that blue light enhances alertness? That’s why it’s a good idea to stop using electronics that emit blue light a few hours before bedtime, especially if your sleeping patterns are erratic. (Ever since I got rid of the TV in my bedroom and stopped checking email before bed, my sleep has improved drastically.)

4. If you experience seasonal sadness or lower energy levels during the day, blue light is a powerful mood-improving tool, in addition to helping with sleep. I’ve been using the Philips goLITE BLU since late December and have never felt better, or had an easier time getting out of bed in the mornings. You can read my review here if you missed it. *One thing to note is that if you have a history of bipolar disorder or sensitivity to bright light, you’ll need to chat with your doctor first.

5. Although blue light therapy is super effective for enhancing energy, it’s always more powerful when used in conjunction with natural ways to combat fatigue like:

  • staying hydrated,
  • taking breaks to alleviate boredom and eye strain,
  • physical activity and exercise (e.g., get your blood flowing and the endorphins poppin’, stretch or skip rope for a couple minutes – any activity is better than no activity), and avoiding sugary foods that lead to spikes and crashes in blood sugar

While Philips has a range of goLITE BLUs available, the model I tested has a suggested retail of $199.99 and can be found at Costco.ca, Personal Edge, Centre du Rasoir, Bed, Bath & Beyond and London Drugs.

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