The Benefits of Light Therapy

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM


The benefits of light therapy for skin and hormonesLight therapy, also known as phototherapy or bright light therapy, has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for various disorders, with Seasonal Affective Disorder being the most common one. The benefits of light therapy range from providing skin treatment to boosting sexual desire in men by managing body hormones.

Light therapy entails exposing a patient to high-intensity light, generally 10,000 lux, which is said to be similar to the intensity of daylight. Phototherapy can be administered in various ways, with the most common method being the use of a light box.

Research on the Benefits of Light Therapy

According to a study by scholars at University of Siena in Italy, the benefits of light therapy trigger psychological responses that have a significant impact on the testosterone levels of the body of the male. Previous studies have determined that light therapy has a significant effect on the levels of Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is linked to the production of testosterone in males. This study aimed at investigating the connection between bright light and testosterone levels.

The pilot study consisted of a group of 38 men who had been diagnosed with low sexual interest. Their testosterone levels were evaluated and the men were divided into two groups, with one group acting as the placebo group. The research was done for two weeks, whereby the first group was exposed to a UV-free light box for 30 minutes each day, while the placebo group was exposed to a light box that emitted a lesser light. At the end of the experiment, both levels of testosterone hormone and rate of sexual interest were measured to verify the previous studies.

The group that had been exposed to the high-intensity light daily for two weeks was found to have an increase in testosterone levels from 2.3 to 3.6 nanograms per milliliter, and a rise in sexual satisfaction rate up to three times more than their initial level found to be at 2 out of 10. On the other hand, the other group was found to have no increase in levels of testosterone and a slight increase in sexual interest rate, at 2.7 up from 2.

The results were presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Vienna, with the conclusion being that daily exposure of men to bright light would increase their sexual desire and ultimately, satisfaction. This is because the light intensity triggered the body to produce LH which increases the levels of testosterones in the bodies of males.

However, the leader of the team, Professor Fagiolini cautioned against the application of this treatment in clinics as it had not been tried on a larger group to confirm the findings.

The research is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal; hence, is still preparative.

According to researcher Fagiolini, these findings are in relation to the decline in the testosterone levels that men in the Northern hemisphere experience in the months of November through April during fall and winter, and gradually increase during spring and summer. The highest testosterone levels are experienced in October. She cites the increased reproductive rates, with June having the highest number of conception levels, a factor that she attributes as being benefits of light therapy through natural exposure.

Sun benefits of light therapyWhen looking at the results from the study, the benefits of light therapy on men, can replace the over-reliance on medical prescriptions that aim at increasing testosterone levels. As a man, you can use the readily available sunlight to boost your hormonal levels.

Light is known to reduce the production of the sleep hormone melatonin by the pineal gland, thereby increasing the production of testosterone and boosting your sexual interest. During winter and fall, you can easily invest in a light box and use it daily for 30 minutes to boost your testosterone levels. The lights boxes have shutters and LED units that lack UV rays. Therefore, you should not fear an increased risk to get cancer.

If you experience low libido, natural light is advisable during spring and summer, preferably the early morning rays of the sun. This can help boost your libido levels and increase your rate of sexual interest, among other health benefits of light therapy.

However, it is not known how long the benefits of light therapy last.

Since the luteinizing hormone is present in women and influences ovulation, there is also a greater chance that women experiencing low sex drive can undergo light therapy to increase their libido. Improving your sex drive can significantly improve your mood.

AFS and NEM Stress Recovery

NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response is the combination of the nervous system, endocrine system and metabolic system in managing stress within the body. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a condition that arises within the body in the event that the adrenal glands, part of the endocrine system, cease to produce the cortisol hormone that is responsible for stress management, resulting in a myriad of symptoms.

In the event that stress levels continue to rise, cortisol hormone is released to maximum levels, as a way of reverting the body’s condition to a normal state. Further increase in stress to chronic levels results in reduced output of the hormone, thereby resulting in AFS. At this point, the NEM stress response is hindered from operating effectively.

AFS is not commonly regarded as being a clinical disorder and is normally treated using antidepressants or dismissed. However, these have drawbacks such as the inhibiting hormones (e.g.norepinephrine) from being reabsorbed into the body. They also provide temporary relief from depression, thereby preventing the body from fully fighting stress. They also lead to addiction. Some have side effects such as fatigue and general weakness which add onto the symptoms of AFS, thus become overbearing on the patient.

Light, AFS, and NEM

It has been discovered that you can use the benefits of light therapy as an alternative remedy for AFS, resulting in reduced reliance on antidepressants and other medicines prescribed by therapists.

This is due to the positive effects that light has on the functioning of the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis that produces circadian cycles responsible for managing stress in your body.

Since stress is a disruption of the normal body functioning, its occurrence disrupts the HPA cycle, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the immune system. This leaves the body prone to attacks by infections, a situation that occurs when you have AFS.

benefits of light therapy and the NEM responseResearch shows that practicing light therapy can help return your internal body back to its natural state. Since AFS results in reduced sleep, fatigue, lethargy and mild depression, the NEM stress response is required to combat these symptoms and being exposed to light therapy activates the adrenals to release cortisol, a mechanism for stress response.

When you are exposed to light, body is signaled to release the hormone cortisol, which is necessary for fighting stress. It also alerts the brain, thereby determining your mood. This is how your body reacts during the early stages of stress.

In the case of AFS, the NEM stress response system is always active and may make it difficult for the body to properly function. As stress situation progresses, the cortisol levels gradually reduce, leaving the body unable to fight stress, and induces fatigue and sleep. Exposure to light of intensity similar to that of natural light results in the production of the hormone.

At dawn, the bright light of the sun activates the production of cortisol and inhibits the production of melatonin. This enables the body to stay awake. At dusk, the low levels of light from the sun reducing the production of cortisol and increases the production of melatonin responsible for inducing sleep. This helps to maintain sleep patterns, ensuring that the body is well-rested.

A light box benefits the body in the same way. Exposure to light every day for thirty minutes ensures that the HPA axis and NEM stress response are maintained at balance. Proper and regular exposure to light ensures that the functioning of the circadian cycle is not disrupted. Ensuring that you dim the lights at night or use red light bulbs of under 40 watts in your bedroom will help your body to induce melatonin, and consequently induce sleep. This way, your stress levels will be easily managed by your body.

It is important to note that in advanced stages of sleep, light therapy may be too stimulating for your body to handle, and can lead to crashes. It is important to approach light therapy gently and slowly in these circumstances.

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Light therapy can be used at any time as there is no limit to how effective it is. Both natural light and a light box can be used to since they have similar intensity, although patients with eye conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts should seek doctor’s advice.


benefits of light therapy