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Have Our LEDs Been Helping All Along?

By Natalie Hickey

Graphic by Madison Mercardo

There is no denying the popularity of LEDs, and the chokehold that they've maintained on society over the last few years. After all, we’ve seen entire dorm buildings lit up like Christmas trees from the inside out, with colorful LEDs in almost every window! It has truly been a cultural movement.

What you may not have known is that your dorm LED lights might actually be helping you — well, the red lights, may be, at least! That's right, red lighting has been acknowledged to have many positive effects: for example better sleep and greater amounts of melatonin production. “Red Light Therapy,” or “RLT,” and infrared saunas have also grown in popularity over the past few years. RLT even goes beyond better sleep, and supposedly helps in a multitude of health areas, varying from acne correction all the way to fixing scarring.

So, why red lighting?

You may know that the blue light in our electronics can hinder our sleep and circadian rhythms. Well, it just so happens that red light may have the opposite effect, creating a feeling of drowsiness. The theory is that the red wavelengths emitted from such LEDs have the ability to stimulate melatonin production, a hormone that aids in better sleep. Red lighting has also shown positive results when measuring the decrease of “sleep inertia,” or the feeling of grogginess when you wake up in the morning.

So what is the difference between Red Light Therapy (RLT) and red lighting?

While red lighting has been tied to better sleep, its slightly different but closely related sibling RLT, has been linked to even greater benefits. The difference being the benefits of red lighting come from your basic LEDs, whereas RLT uses a low level of red or near-infrared light. Sites such as “Joovv,” a company that sells RLT devices for at-home use, claims that their red and near-infrared light stimulate greater energy down to the cellular level, benefiting mental acuity, circadian rhythm improvement and sleep optimization, increased performance and recovery, healthier skin, decreased inflammation, and improved blood flow. Check it out:

Too good to be true?

While the studies have been small and not entirely conclusive, the effects of red lighting have shown promising results! There don’t seem to be any real downsides. So, the next time you find it hard to fall asleep, turn your LED on the red mode and see if it helps!


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