Sci­ence-Backed Mood Boost­ers


Ev­ery­one is turn­ing to­ward the light these days: Red-light body ses­sions have be­come spa-menu fix­tures, and LED gad­gets prom­ise to fix ev­ery­thing from in­som­nia to wrin­kles. “We’re only scratch­ing the sur­face of what light can do,” says Shadab Rah­man, Ph.D., an in­struc­tor of sleep medicine at Har­vard Med­i­cal School. Here’s what you can ex­pect from a few trend­ing treat­ments.


WHAT IT IS: A lamp that emits rays that mimic sun­light; sit­ting close to it for 20 to 30 min­utes in the morn­ing is said to boost mood, in­crease fo­cus, and fight ir­ri­tabil­ity in peo­ple with Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der (SAD).

WHAT WE KNOW: About one in five peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ences a mood dip in win­ter, and light boxes are the go-to an­ti­dote. “The light tar­gets the cause: a dis­tur­bance in cir­ca­dian rhythm tied to the change in sun­light and dark­ness,” ex­plains Michael Ter­man, Ph.D., of the Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Ther­a­peu­tics. One study showed light ther­apy to be as ef­fec­tive as an­tide­pres­sants in treat­ing SAD, with fewer side ef­fects. SHOULD YOU TRY IT? Yes, but if your blues are mild, try sun­light (free!) first. “Tak­ing breaks out­side or at the win­dow can make you feel more alert and fo­cused and im­prove your mood,” says Rah­man. BRANDS: Carex Day-Light Clas­sic Plus Bright Light Ther­apy Lamp, $115; Per2 LED Smart Lamp Dawn and Dusk Sim­u­la­tor, $80


WHAT IT IS: Spe­cial LED lightbulbs that are said to help bat­tle in­som­nia by reg­u­lat­ing your cir­ca­dian rhythm; blue-emit­ting bulbs perk you up dur­ing the day, while blue-de­pleted bulbs help you sleep at night.

WHAT WE KNOW: Many stud­ies have shown that night­time ex­po­sure to blue light (from

phones, com­put­ers, and reg­u­lar lightbulbs) sup­presses mela­tonin, the hor­mone needed to trig­ger sleep. Other stud­ies have found that ex­po­sure to blue light dur­ing the day im­proves alert­ness.

SHOULD YOU TRY IT? Sure. “We need our day-night con­trast to be dra­matic; one way is to use blue-en­riched light on your desk dur­ing the day and bluede­pleted lights wher­ever you relax for two hours be­fore bed,” says Rah­man. BRANDS: Light­ing Sci­ence Good­Night Sleep En­hanc­ing Bulb, $13; Harth Nite Switch Bulb, $20


WHAT IT IS: Beds, masks, and hand­held wands that emit red light claim to plump skin and re­duce fine lines.


A 2013 study showed that light treat­ments could help re­duce wrin­kles. “Red light has an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects and in­creases col­la­gen pro­duc­tion, tightening skin and im­prov­ing tex­ture and tone,” says An­gela Lamb, M.D., a der­ma­tol­o­gist at New York City’s Mount Si­nai Hos­pi­tal.

SHOULD YOU TRY IT? Only if you can spend a lot and keep your ex­pec­ta­tions in check. “These treat­ments do of­fer mod­est im­prove­ment, es­pe­cially when com­bined with anti-ag­ing creams that in­clude retinol, hy­drox­y­acids, or an­tiox­i­dants like vi­ta­min C,” says Joshua Ze­ich­ner, M.D., Mount Si­nai’s di­rec­tor of re­search in der­ma­tol­ogy.

BRANDS: LightS­tim for Wrin­kles, $250; Dr. Den­nis Gross, DRx Spec­traLite FaceWare Pro, $435

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