Bright Light Therapy: Can Teens Sleep Better With It?
Sleep is very important for teenagers as their bodies and minds are still developing. Getting enough sleep is essential to achieve optimal health. The recommended amount of sleep each night is around 8-10 hours, but many do not reach the said hours because of several reasons.
For teens, one of the reasons is brought by being in the stage of puberty where there is a shift in the timing of the internal biological clock or also known as the circadian rhythm. The body during adolescence responds to the daily light and dark exposure which affects one’s internal clock. When they undergo this stage, it causes teenagers to have the urge to stay up later at night and sleep later during midnight or early morning (Moawad, 2016). Another reason for why teens lack sleep is because of the blue light emitted by technological and electronic devices. During night time, it can interfere by preventing the brain releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates our natural sleep-wake cycle, which makes it harder for people to feel tired and fall asleep at bedtime (Fry, 2022). Other reasons for having a difficult time sleeping are having a busy schedule, being stressed, and experiencing social and emotional pressure.
It is important for teens to establish a good sleep schedule to feel energized for another day moving forward. However, given that there are a lot of reasons that hinder getting a good night’s sleep, teens should try looking for alternative ways on how to fix their sleep schedule and achieve the recommended hours of sleep.
What is Bright Light Therapy
Light plays a significant role in one’s sleep. Since the sleep-wake cycle follows a 24-hour pattern, the clock we internally follow is responsible for controlling the other rhythms that happen in our body like our temperature and appetite. With that, the internal clock sends signals to the other parts of the brain to indicate alertness and wakefulness during the day, and also sleepiness during the night (Whittle, 2022).
Now, the question is what is Bright Light Therapy work and how does it help in one’s sleeping pattern? It actually revolves on how an individual optimizes their light exposure for sleep. Bright light therapy is a treatment for individuals who have a hard time sleeping at night, or those who have circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Usually, this disorder is caused by the internal clock of your body as it is not aligning with your daily or regular activities such as going to work, or for teens, going to school. Light therapy is also used to expose the eyes to sfe amount of light to gradually bring back or reset the internal clock (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2020).
How Can Teens Apply Bright Light Therapy
Bright light therapy, also known as phototherapy, can help teens in regulating their sleep cycle. This is a treatment that they can try which involves sitting close to and also facing a bright light box for a certain amount of time. Usually, it is ranging from 10 to 60 minutes of exposure, every morning. It is possible to do other activities during the said time like working on their daily homework or reading their textbooks while being near to the bright light (Whittle, 2022). Artificial light like a full spectrum lamp or a portable visor can be used when performing this therapy. Natural outdoor light, when available, is also an option. The longer an individual is exposed to light, the more effective it gets (Stanford Health Care, n.d).
Teens can also regulate their light exposure which can result in improving their sleep quality. During the day, they can get natural light by going out for an early walk. Another is to reduce or stop the usage of electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to bed. If there is a need to use such a device, it is suggested to use it in a different room to not use it while you are in your bed. Dimming the lights for two hours prior to sleeping may also help (Whittle, 2022).
Potential of Bright Light Therapy in Helping Teens
Given that there are many activities a teen can do, having enough sleep is important. For those that are having a difficult time achieving the recommended amount of sleep, bright light therapy can slowly help them improve their sleep cycles. Sleep plays a vital role in physical and mental development so it is really crucial in the stage of adolescence. Lack of sleep can also cause health problems or other complications in the body. Addressing sleep as early as the teenage years is essential to prevent such diseases and to have better physical health.
For those that are struggling with their regular sleep schedule, you can always reach out to a healthcare provider who can give you professional advice and determine what other tests or treatment may help you.
Fry, A. (2022). How blue light affects kids’ sleep. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep
Moawad, H. (2016). Teenage circadian rhythm. Neurology Live. https://www.neurologylive.com/view/teenage-circadian-rhythm
Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough. (n.d). Caring for Kids. https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy-living/teens_and_sleep
Teenagers and sleep. (n.d). Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep
Whittle, M. (2022). How lights affect sleep. The Sleep Doctor. https://thesleepdoctor.com/sleep-environment/light-and-sleep/
Bright light therapy. (2020). American Academy of Sleep Medicine. https://sleepeducation.org/patients/bright-light-therapy/
Bright Light Therapy for Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome. (n.d). Stanford Health Care. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/sleep/advanced-sleep-phase-syndrome/treatments/bright-light-therapy