Light Therapy and Sleep Disorders

What is your Circadian Rhythm?

A circadian rhythm is an event related to the daily rotation of the earth. One of the most well-known circadian rhythms is our sleep-wake cycle. 

Our bodies depend on the rising and setting of the sun to get the signal of when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to fall asleep. The effect of light exposure on our circadian rhythms is critically dependent on its timing. Morning light moves the sleep/wake clock earlier, while evening light shifts the clock later.

Our circadian rhythm also controls virtually all systems of the body, including:

  • Metabolism and weight: regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol is tied to the circadian rhythm
  • Mental health:  sleep-wake cycle affects certain mental health conditions such as your risk of depression and dementia
  • Immune system and DNA repair: the sleep-wake cycle has been tied to your body’s ability to repair its DNA
An image depicting the phases of your sleep/wake cycle

What are circadian rhythm disorders?

Circadian rhythm disorders are sleep disorders that disrupt the timing of your sleep. The picture above depicts the circadian rhythm of the average person. People who suffer from circadian rhythm disorders can help reset their biological clocks by using light therapy. The most common circadian rhythm disorders are:

  • Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
  • Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder
  • Jet Lag
  • Shift Work Disorder
  • Irregular sleep-wake rhythm
  • Non 24-hour sleep-wake syndrome
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