The Netherlands Turns to Light Therapy for Mental Health Treatment

Depression
Red
Brain

While mental health has long been swept under the rug, it affects more people than we can even imagine. Finally, the world is starting to acknowledge, and normalize, how we relate to and talk about mental health, and for good reason:  one in four people in the world will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Today, around 450 million people suffer from a mental health condition, with many suffering from more than one. 

You may be reading those numbers in shock. How can that many people have a mental health condition, and we never talk about it? Throughout the decades, mental health has faced stigma, discrimination, and negligence. With such negativity placed on mental health disorders, most people never sought treatment for their condition, much less understood where their suffering was coming from.

However, the conversation around mental health has shifted, with more people coming forward to talk about mental health and their experiences. With this, it has helped propel research on specific mental health conditions and uncover new therapies to aid those who suffer from a mental health issue. 

Recently, there’s been a promising development in mental healthcare as Dutch researchers discovered how light therapy can help those with mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder. The Good Light Group—a non-profit advocacy organization focused on research, commercialization, and public education on “nutritive lighting”—discussed in their seminar the importance of light therapy in the public healthcare system. 

In the seminar, Lisette Rops, a psychiatrist, head of the department of bipolar disorder, and head of the department of light and lifestyle treatment at GGzE (Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care), summarized the relationship between mental health and the circadian rhythm. She states that the circadian rhythm (the biological clock) is responsible for stimulating hormone production, chemical receptors, and the healing process. 

Doctors at GGzE recommend that patients who undergo light therapy treatment receive around 30 minutes of light therapy a day, five days per week, and focus on other factors such as sleep, nutrition, social activity, and daytime routine.

Aside from bipolar disorder, there have been many studies surrounding the benefits of light therapy for depression. Again, the focus on treating depression stems from the circadian rhythm. While light therapy for non-seasonal depression isn’t meant to cure it, it helps with easing symptoms, increasing energy levels, and helping you feel better overall. 

Infrared light therapy seasonal depression focuses on exposing the body to an artificial source of light, mimicking natural sunlight. Those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) have difficulty regulating serotonin and overproduce melatonin, which results in feeling depressed and tired. By exposing the body to infrared light at a specific time of the day to help the body regulate hormone production and receive a deep and full night’s sleep. 

While some countries are working toward including red light therapy treatment as a public health service, light therapy treatment can be done in a private clinic or for at-home use. The accessibility of light therapy as a form of mental health treatment allows people to take charge of their health and incorporate light therapy into their daily life. 

Kaiyan Medical manufactures MDA-certified and FDA-approved light therapy devices that can be designed for professional or at-home use. While the stigma of mental health will take time to fully change, doctors and everyday people can take charge of their own mental health through the power of light.