In this Blog, we will help you better understand the complex wording(s) behind Light and all technologies surrounding it. Like PBM – what’s that?
Photobiomodulation, PBM for short, is what scientific literature refers to as the usage of a very specific light spectrum of red or near-infrared light wavelengths. These can have certain benefits for the body. Sunlight and PBM are powerful tools, so much can be said right away. The general topic of light however covers a much wider spectrum – pun intended – so, to get started let’s head on deep into the origin of it all: Sunlight. What does Photobiomodulation have to do with that? Let’s find out:
What’s the difference between sunlight, PBM and red light?
In order to answer this, we have to reach out a little further:
The sun contains a full spectrum of light. Some light is visible to the human eye, and others are not.
Visible light consists of a range of colors that travel in waves, which can be seen on the electromagnetic spectrum. Each color has a different and specific wavelength, frequency, and energy level, which affect its length and intensity. On one side of the spectrum is red light, which has the longest wavelengths and lowest frequency; on the other is violet light, which has the shortest wavelengths and highest frequency.
For better understanding, our Luminousred devices include both red light (600-700 nm), and near-infrared light (700-900 nm). Near-infrared light is outside of the visible light spectrum, meaning – you’ve guessed it – it is not visible to the human eye. However, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there and fueling your body with all the good stuff it has to offer.
There are 5 Types of Bioactive Light
The different colors of light – blue, UV, red, and infrared – affect our bodies differently. They are “bioactive”, which means they affect the function of our cells. Within those colors are different wavelengths that promote unique effects, depending on their penetrability. It is important to know the specific wavelengths, because each one penetrates your body to a different degree, thereby giving a different effect:
BLUE LIGHT sets the circadian rhythm in our brain, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle. A lot of biohackers hack their circadian rhythm as in today’s daily life; we have an overdose of blue light (especially in our working environment through screens, mobile phones, and fluorescent lights). (1)
UV LIGHT allows us, humans, to synthesize Vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. It keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Also, it supports our immune system, brain, and nervous system health. UV light is also responsible for our suntans, but too much UV exposure is damaging to our tissue, resulting in sunburns. (2)
FAR INFRARED LIGHT acts to heat up our cells which then help stimulate cell function as well as cellular changes. We often feel this as heat, and this technology is commonly used in “infrared saunas”. (3)
RED LIGHT emits wavelengths of between 620-700 nm and acts on the mitochondria to stimulate increased cellular energy, called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Visible red light within this range can penetrate the skin, offering rejuvenation and can be used for countless mental and physical well-being appliances. (4)
NEAR-INFRARED LIGHT (NIR) is invisible to the naked eye and has a wavelength of 700nm to 1400nm. NIR is similar to red light, however, it can penetrate the skin much deeper than red light, including all soft tissue, connective tissue, and bone. (5)
The Power of Sunlight
Exposure to sunlight is essential for both our mental and physical well-being. Some of these benefits include:
- Boosting vitamin D production, which is crucial for our skeletal, cardiovascular, neurological, and immune systems to protect against possible harm and optimize physical performance. (6)
- Improving sleep quality, by regulating our circadian rhythms and melatonin levels. (7)
- Improving our mental resilience by increasing serotonin production, which is a hormone associated with helping keep a person feel calm, positive, and focused. (8)
Lowering blood pressure and improving heart health by releasing nitric oxide into the blood. (9)
Can we get too much sunlight?
Yes! While there are many benefits of getting sunlight, the sun does emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can penetrate the skin and cause damage to the DNA. This can lead to sunburn, damage to the eye and even heighten the risk of skin cancer. (10), (11), (12)
It seems that researchers aren’t always clear on how long you should be outside to receive the benefits of sunlight, however, determining how much exposure to the sun is too much depends on your skin type and how direct the sun’s rays are. Generally, people with fair skin are more likely to get a sunburn than those with darker skin. Also, you’re more likely to get sunburn when the sun’s rays are more direct – which occurs usually around 10 AM and 4 PM. (13)
According to the World Health Organization, getting between 5-15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face 2-3 times a week is sufficient to reap the sun’s benefit of boosting vitamin D. Note that the sun must be able to penetrate the skin. Wearing sunscreen or clothing over your skin will not result in vitamin D production. However, if you’re going to be outside for more than 15 minutes, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
What happens when we don’t get enough sunlight?
When we don’t get enough sunlight, we are at risk of being vitamin D deficient, which can lead to a lot of mental and physical problems, such as low energy, increased feelings of tiredness, food-cravings, lower physical performance or mood swings, to name a few. (14), (15)
As we’ve discussed in our Blogpost on the “Winter Blues”, decreased exposure to daylight disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, therefore impacting the amount of body regulating hormones, as well as the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin. Therefore making sure to get enough vitamin D in your day is vital. If you can’t get it naturally by being outdoors, substituting with supplements or red-light technology is a great alternative!
Is red light an alternative to sunlight?
We’ve discussed that natural sunlight offers massive benefits, but excess exposure to sunlight, however, can cause problems. This is where red light technology comes in.
In recent years, using red light (photobiomodulation) has gained popularity as an alternative to sunlight, because of the amount of convenience and control it offers (like setting the intensity and wavelength). However, while red light is helpful for improving your overall well-being, increasing energy and optimizing sleep IT IS NOT a substitute for natural full-spectrum sunlight.
Ideally, you want to get both in your daily routine – sunlight in the morning to help you wake up, boost vitamin D levels, improve mood, etc., and red light from a red light therapy device to boost mitochondrial function and improve your overall health and wellness. (16)
However, since getting regular doses of sunlight might not be possible for everyone (due to location, season, schedule, lifestyle, etc.), then red light technology is a great and convenient alternative to make up for the low amount of natural light!
What does red light do to the body and how do I use it correctly?
The human body is very responsive to light. All light is beneficial to some degree, but too much can be harmful. Red light and near-infrared (NIR) light are exceptions, as confirmed by thousands of independent studies. Red light technology involves shining red and/or NIR light onto the body to stimulate biological processes. When the body is exposed to red light, the light wavelengths stimulate the mitochondria to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is a molecule that produces the energy our body needs to function so that it can heal tissue, cells, and systems.
In essence, red light works as a stimulant for cells, similar to recharging a battery. In fact, the body works similarly to a battery, and our body’s ability to receive and maintain a charge determines our overall health.
More than 6000 studies and scientific reviews have been conducted to investigate the effects of the general topic of red light therapy. When it comes to the correct dosage and duration of a red light session, there is no hard and fast rule. For some, 5 minutes is enough, while others may need longer sessions. As a rule of thumb, between 10-20 minutes per day is a good amount of time and should fit into any routine. If you have a busy schedule, take this time for yourself to find some peace and calm. Generally, the closer you are to the light source, the deeper the light penetrates.
As to the frequency, red light is considered safe to use every day, throughout the day. The optimal time to do it is the one that works for you! For the best results, we recommend having at least 3 sessions per week, at best daily usage. The key to success is consistency and patience.
For more information around the topic of light and well-being, read through the articles on our blog and join our Newsletter to stay up to date on research, company updates, insights and more! Let us enlighten you!
Interested in more?
These Blog Posts might will satisfy your thirst for more:
Sunlight vs. Red Light Therapy
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