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  • Is Light Therapy Safe for Children?

    healthy children playing

     

    While there is plenty of media coverage regarding seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, in adults, children are often left out of the picture. The truth is that SAD affects children just as it does adults, particularly those who live in areas that are far from the equator.

     

    SAD is a type of major depressive disorder whose symptoms appear when the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. The symptoms generally subside in the spring, when the days grow longer. Because of the great risks related to children and youth taking antidepressant medications to treat anxiety or depression, researchers found light therapy for children to be a safe, effective treatment alternative.

     

    Circadian Rhythms and Depression

    While the exact causes of depression and its subtypes are not fully known, scientists have found a link between the mental health disorder and circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the body’s response to light and darkness. These responses contribute to:

     

    • The release and production of hormones
    • Moods
    • Mental health
    • Sleep-wake cycles
    • Heart rate
    • Body temperature
    • Appetite
    • Metabolism
    • DNA repair
    • Protein synthesis

     

    A 2012 article published in the Journal of Neural Transmission states that the discovery of “clock genes,” the biological clocks present in various cells throughout the body, may lead to circadian rhythm abnormalities. Researchers believe that these abnormalities show the relationship between depressive symptoms and sleep disorders, as abnormal sleep patterns may increase the risk of depressive episodes, as well as negatively affect emotional and cognitive regulation, metabolism, and hormonal balances.

     

    Using Light Therapy for Children

    When eyes see light, they send signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain’s hypothalamus. These signals trigger the production of various hormones, including serotonin and melatonin, which make a body feel alert or sleepy. During the fall and winter, when the eyes see less natural light during the day, the body’s altered serotonin and melatonin production may affect sleep-wake cycles and alter moods. Scientists hypothesize that light has a neurotrophic influence on neurons, and a prolonged decrease in light impairs the brain’s noradrenergic-locus coeruleus system, immune system regulation and neurohormones.

     

    Studies found that white and blue wavelengths in light therapy products mimic the wavelengths found in natural light. In individuals with SAD and other depressive disorders, researchers found that the benefits produced by bright light therapy mimicked those produced by antidepressant medications. Light therapy, however, did not carry the same risks or side effects of antidepressants.

     

    Light therapy is as simple as using a phototherapy product for at least 30 minutes a day in the morning or afternoon. Along with psychotherapy, light therapy is one of the safest forms of treatment for children and youth who experience depression, as it is well tolerated and effective.

     

    Increasing a child’s exposure to bright light is a proven simple, effective way to help relieve depressive symptoms, particularly those related to seasonal changes in daylight. Parents should always consult with a child’s pediatrician regarding observed symptoms to determine the best course of treatment. Medical professionals can also advise regarding the best type of light therapy product to use and when to use them.

     

    [Photo from LadyDragonflyCC - >;< via CC License 2.0]
  • How Hotels Can Help Traveling Execs Improve Their Stay

    Hotel California

     

    Many hotel guests are individuals who traveled across two or more time zones quickly. The time difference makes them feel jet lagged and uncoordinated. Daylighting for hotels helps reduce the effects of jet lag in guests and helps them feel more comfortable. When guests feel comfortable, they’re more likely to be return visitors, which may earn your hotel a corporate account.

     
    Why Use Daylighting for Hotels

     

    The way that eyes interpret light has a big role in your sleep-wake cycle. When your retinas see light, the photosensitive cells in them send signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain’s hypothalamus. In the presence of bright lighting, the SCN tells the pineal gland in the epithalamus to secrete serotonin, which keeps you awaked. When it’s dark, the SCN sends signals to the pineal gland to convert serotonin into melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.

     

    In a hotel, guests often do not receive ample exposure to natural light, which may disrupt their circadian rhythms. They use the provided blackout curtains at night to keep their rooms dark, which prevents them from naturally waking with the sunrise. Strategic daylighting exposes guests to the appropriate type of light for the time of day, so they grow more accustomed to the current time zone. For guests who are not jet lagged, daylighting helps them maintain their circadian rhythm in their new, temporary environment.

     
    Additional Benefits of Daylighting for Hotels

    • Reduce energy costs

    • Reduce eye strain in guests and employees

    • Improve worker productivity, efficiency and alertness

    • Improve memory recall

    • Increase the sense of satisfaction in guests and workers

    • Naturally reduce stress

    • Decrease employee absenteeism

    • Increased guest happiness and satisfaction increases their spending on hotel services, such as room service and at on-site amenities, including restaurants, spas and gift shops

    • Increase the value of the property and each room

    • Helps guests sleep better, feel more optimistic and have a greater sense of wellbeing

     

    The Sun Frame for Hotels

     

    Nature Bright’s Sun Frame is a light therapy product that illuminates artwork using lights that emit different wavelengths based on the time of day. Nature Bright collaborated with Duke University researchers to develop the SkyEffect technology used in the frame, which mimics natural sunlight. The technology shines energizing blue wavelengths in the morning and slowly shifts to calming red wavelengths in the evening.

     

    At 10,000 lux, the Sun Frame is bright enough to illuminate an entire room while using less electricity than a standard light bulb. This light therapy product is also programmable and customizable, allowing you to set up the sun frame so it begins to illuminate when a guest wants to wake up, mimicking a morning sunrise. Pair the Sun Frame with scenes from around the area to give your guests the ultimate wake-up service. Moreover, take advantage of the adjustable light output to help guests feel less jet lagged. Simply intensify the brightness in the morning or afternoon, depending on their original time zone.

     

    In addition to using the Sun Frame in guest rooms, use it throughout the hotel to create a unified look and incorporate daylighting that benefits workers and visitors alike. Ideas for places to use the Sun Frame include behind the front desk, in the lobby, in the dining room where guests enjoy breakfast, and in business centers.

     

    Nature Bright’s Sun Frame is a unique way to provide traveling executives with a great, comfortable experience at your hotel. Daylighting for hotels give an accommodation a welcoming feel from which all exposed to the light therapy will benefit.

     

    [Photo from Kevin Dooley via CC License 2.0]
  • How Traveling Execs Can Use Natural Light for Jet Lag

    travelers boarding airplane

     

    Traveling across several time zones quickly takes a toll on the body and mind. In general, it takes about one day to recover for each time zone crossed. While you can’t prevent the disruption to your internal clock, using natural light strategically for jet leg treatment will help reduce the effects and the amount of time it takes to recover.

     
    Causes of Jet Lag

     
    Jet lag occurs when you cross two or more time zones quickly because it throws off your circadian rhythm. The cabin pressure inside planes may aggravate the effects of jet lag because the higher altitude lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood. Failing to remain properly hydrated during a flight may also increase jet lag symptoms. By using the right type of lighting at the right time of day before, during and after a flight, you’ll prepare your body and mind for the time difference.

     
    Jet Lag Treatment Tips Using Natural Light

     

    Be mindful of the time at your final destination when you arrive at the airport. If you’re traveling east, for example, and it’s already evening or nighttime at your destination, consider using sunglasses at the airport and on the plane to expose your eyes to less bright light. Draw the shade over the window, if possible.

     

    When traveling west, leave the shade on the window up, if possible. Exposing yourself to natural light will slow the production of melatonin.

     

    Sleep on the plane during long flights. Set your watch to your destination’s time before the plane takes-off. When it’s nighttime at your destination, try to sleep as much as you can on the plane to help your body get used to the time difference. Use foam earplugs and a comfortable eye mask to block out light. If there is an in-flight meal or snack during the time that you want to sleep, ask the flight attendant to save it for you if you are sleeping to reduce interruptions.

     

    Plan what to do for the time following your airplane’s arrival. If you land at night, plan to sleep once you arrive. If it’s daytime, plan your day so you remain busy until late evening. Weather permitting, plan activities that are outside to help keep you energized and awake. If you feel as if you need to nap to make up for lost sleep, limit it to 45 minutes so you don’t experience difficulties falling asleep at night.

     

    Use natural light and light therapy products to adjust your circadian rhythm gently. When traveling east, seek morning light and avoid light in the late afternoon. Conversely, avoid bright morning light when travels take you west, but expose yourself to plenty of afternoon light. During the fall and winter, when the days are shorter, a light therapy product will help you get the appropriate amount of light at the right times of day.

     

    Preparing for a time difference when you travel allows you to enjoy your destination more and feel less uncoordinated. Frequent travelers often rely on high performance light therapy products, like Nature Bright’s Sun Bliss, to help them prepare for a trip and adjust to new time zones. If you experience particular difficulties with time zone changes, consult a sleep specialist regarding the best jet lag treatment for you.

     

    [Photo from Shaun Fisher via CC License 2.0]
  • Using Natural Light in Hospital Interior Design

    hospital room with natural light

     

    Light is a healing force. It regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, which controls sleep-wake cycles and has a role in emotional health, heart function, body temperatures and other functions necessary for healing. According to a February 2015 article in Designing Buildings, research findings show that natural light for hospitals offers significant benefits to patients and health care staff.

     

    Artificial Lighting in Hospitals

    Advances in artificial lighting and air conditioning allowed architects to design large, deep buildings with enclosed spaces that didn’t rely on natural lighting for illumination. While the spaces are habitable, they often lack efficiency and have negative effects on general wellbeing and productivity. Patients in windowless rooms tend to feel higher levels of stress and, in extreme cases, suffered from the effects of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

    Modern health care architects have a greater focus on sustainable or green building designs that exploit natural daylight and the views out of windows. The designs take advantage of the benefits of natural light while combating the negative impacts associated with it, such as heat gains, the transmission of UV rays and glare.

     

    Benefits of Natural Light for Hospitals

     

    Reduced lengths of in-patient stays: Researchers found that patients admitted to brighter rooms spent up to 41 percent less time in the hospital than those in dimmer or windowless rooms. In a study involving cardiac patients in an intensive care unit, patients in darker rooms stayed a day longer on average than those in brighter rooms. Similarly, mortality rates were higher among patients in darker rooms.

     

    Faster post-operative recovery: When a room has ample natural light during and provides a nice view, post-operative patients feel less stressed and have lower blood pressure, which is vital for recovery. In windowless rooms, patients are more at risk for feeling depressed and developing post-operative delirium. When a patient feels stressed, inflammation in the body increases, which increases pain and hinders healing.

     

    Greater pain relief: Up to 22 percent of patients in bright rooms report needing fewer pain medications. When a patient needs more pain medication, the individual’s must heal from the surgery and deal with the negative side effects of the medications and higher medical bills.

     

    Improved employee morale: Natural lighting boosts employee productivity and moods, and helps them feel more energized. In a hospital environment, employees with access to natural light and views of nature have lower levels of stress and health-related absenteeism, which ultimately benefits patients.

     

    The Ideal Natural Light for Hospitals

     

    When designing health care spaces, the most important factors regarding window design include the amount of sunshine that enters a room, patient proximity to the window, the view, and patient privacy. The findings regarding the best window size for a patient’s room vary by study. In general, patients tend to prefer windows that occupy at least 25 percent of an exterior wall. Many patients prefer rooms with two or more windows.

     

    Numerous studies have found that exposure to bright lights of at least 2,500 lux that contain short white or blue wavelengths for at least two hours in the morning are the most beneficial to patients. This is particularly true for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as they displayed less agitation later in the day and improved sleep-wake cycles.

     

    Hospitals should provide the ultimate healing environment. While bright natural daylight is best, it’s not always possible to get optimal levels during certain seasons or because of building constrains. Supplementing natural light with light therapy solutions throughout a health care facility exposes patients and staff to the benefits of the sun’s healthy wavelengths, and may improve a patient’s perceived quality of care. Light therapy also offers a more affordable alternative to a building remodel and aids and organization’s green efforts when constructing a new facility.

     

    [Photo from Fotos GOVBA via CC License 2.0]
  • Light Therapy Can Aid in Alzheimer’s Disease Treatments

    alzheimers patients with nurse

     

    Good lighting is essential to an individual’s wellbeing. In healthy individuals, a lack of natural or full-spectrum lighting leads to circadian rhythm disturbances or sleep disorders, which may affect the heart, mental health and other systems in the body. When an individual has a cognitive impairment, light therapy for Alzheimer’s patients and those with dementia is vital to naturally regulating sleep cycles and promoting positive emotional and physical health.

     

    Light and the Brain

     

    Within the brain’s hypothalamus is the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the part of the brain that Alzheimer’s disease typically affects first. The SCN naturally decreases in cell mass in after an individual is about 80 years old, but the reduction of cells is more pronounced in those with Alzheimer’s disease and the reduction occurs at an earlier age. Scientists believe that the shrinkage may relate to the sleep disorders that individuals may experience as they age.

     

    The brain’s SCN regulates an individual’s circadian rhythms, or internal biological clock. The SCN receives and interprets information from the retinas based on the light signals that the photosensitive cells within it transmit. The SCN then sends the information to the pineal gland in the brain. When it’s dark or the light levels are lower, the pineal gland converts serotonin into melatonin and secretes it. Alternatively, when the eyes see white or blue wavelengths in light—like those found in sunlight—serotonin conversion does not occur.

     

    Using Light Therapy for Alzheimer’s Patients

     

    A January 2013 article in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease states that circadian system depends on the timing of light exposure to function well and is the most sensitive to blue, or short-wavelength, light. Scientists found that in the morning, bright light exposure of 1,000 lux or more increases daytime wakefulness, helps patients feel less agitated the evening and promotes nighttime sleep. Bright lights also improved cognitive functions and sleep efficiency, and reduced symptoms of depression. While conducting studies, researchers found that the timing of bright light exposure mattered. Alzheimer’s patients seemed to respond the best with morning light therapy between 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

     

    The best light therapy for Alzheimer’s patients provides high circadian stimulation during the day and low stimulation in the evening and night. Optimal daytime levels are 1,000 lux or higher for at least two hours. Daylight from windows, for example, is an effective light source. Keep in mind, however, that daylight levels of brightness lower once an individual is three or four meters away, even on a sunny day. Furthermore, daylight from windows may not be effective if it causes an uncomfortable glare that prompts individuals to close the shades.

     

    At night, lights should not be brighter than 60 lux. Research shows that exposure to red and orange wavelengths are the least disruptive to circadian rhythms in the evening. Scientists also found that low ambient illumination in the form of strips of amber LED lights behind doorframes, along with dim incandescent nightlights in hallways, improved patient stability and reduced the risk of falls at night.

     

    Light therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients helps reduce some of the symptoms of cognitive impairment and improves sleep cycles. In turn, this allows an individual to remain independent for a longer period. The light therapy options that Nature Bright offers mimic natural sunlight, providing the benefits of blue and white wavelengths throughout the year. Browse through Nature Bright’s selection of light therapy products to find the best one for your home or facility.

     

    [Photo from Ministere du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la sante via CC Licence 2.0]