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Light Therapy: The Benefits

Shakespeare called the eyes "the window to the soul." Increasingly, doctors are calling them a window to treating a remarkable variety of health problems with light. For years, sunlight has been a standard treatment for psoriasis, the poorly understood inflammatory condition that causes the skin thickening and eruption of red, scaly patches. But recently, light therapy has been used successfully to treat several other ailments.

1. Prolonged Menstrual Cycles

The typical menstrual cycle lasts about a month, but some women extend up to twice as long. Long cycles might be an advantage for some women - less premenstrual syndrome, for example - but for women trying to have children, long cycles limit opportunities for conception. In a pilot study, women were exposed to the light of a 100-watt light bulb while they slept. The women slept with the light on for five nights near the middle of their extended cycles, and the cycles became shorter. It is not known why this treatment works, but it is believed that the light affects regulation of female sex hormones. If so, phototherapy might one day be used to treat some cases of infertility.

2. Night-owl Insomnia

One type of insomnia involves a nightly inability to fall asleep until the wee hours - and often the abuse of alcohol and sleeping pills to bring on the sandman. It is called delayed phase syndrome (DSPS), or night-owl insomnia, and it usually develops during the teen years. Researchers blame it on having a maladjusted biological rhythm that does not say "good night" until several hours past a normal bedtime. Bright-light therapy looks like the best bet for relief. In one study, 20 people with DSPS had to spend two hours each morning under a bright-light appliance and then wear dark goggles for two hours before dusk. After a few weeks, participants fell asleep two hours earlier and woke up the next morning feeling more alert and refreshed. When contacted six months later, almost all participants reported purchasing bright-light appliances.

3. Late-shift Drowsiness

There is a good reason why the work shift from midnight to 8.00A.M. is called the graveyard shift. People who work nights are two to five times more likely to fall asleep on the job and have accidents. Late-night sleepiness may impair the judgement of police, firefighters and ambulance drivers. In addition, a disturbing number of airline disasters have occurred in wee hours. Now phototherapy may come to the rescue. Thirty graveyard-shift workers were selected to perform a series of tasks every hour for one night. The workers were gauged on their sleepiness using standard tests. The next night, the lights were replaced from 500-lux lighting to 9,000-lux lights. After only one night under the bright light, the workers' accuracy improved dramatically, while their sleepiness decreased. One night's exposure to bright light seems to have shifted their biological clocks, enabling them to perform better on subsequent nights.

4. Nonseasonal Depression

The winter blues are just the tip of the depression iceberg. Some 10 to 15 million Americans are seriously depressed, and the condition's most tragic consequence - suicide - claims 30,000 lives a year. The success of light therapy in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has led to studies of its effectiveness for nonseasonal depression - with promising preliminary results. In a study, 50 men were divided into two groups with severe nonseasonal depression. Half spent seven consecutive evenings in a room illuminated with 1,600 watts of bright light. The other half spent the time in a room with the lights turned low. Compared with symptoms in the dim-light group, symptoms in the bright-light group improved 18 percent.

5. Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system mistakes the body's own tissues for germs and attacks them. It strikes many more women than men and can cause a confusing array of symptoms, including fatigue, rashes, joint pains and kidney damage. People with lupus are usually warned to avoid sunlight because it can aggravate their symptoms. One type of ultraviolet sunlight, UVA-1 helps relieve lupus symptoms. Women with lupus was exposed to a combination of UVA-1 and ordinary fluorescent light for ten minutes a day five days a week for three weeks. Nine out of ten women reported less joint pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

Raymond Lee Geok Seng is one of the foremost experts in the health and fitness industry and is a writer specializing in body health, muscle development and dieting. He has spent countless of time and efforts conducting research and share his insightful and powerful secrets to benefit men and women all over the world. He is currently the author of the latest edition of "Neck Exercises and Workouts." Visit http://www.bodyfixes.com for more information."

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