Light Therapy & Bipolar Depression: The Experts Weigh-in


For decades, the topic of mental illness was taboo and generally brushed under the rug. Many people were ashamed to speak out about their mental illness and kept their experiences to themselves. Over the past couple of years, mental health has become at the forefront of public discussion, with more people sharing their experiences and outwardly looking for support. 

In the United States alone, almost half of adults (46.6%) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. Globally, it's estimated that at least 10 percent of the world's population suffer from some type of mental disorder. These numbers hold significant meaning. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness accounts for 30% of non-fatal diseases and 10% of overall disease worldwide. This is huge. But let’s take a closer look.For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on a specific mental disorder: bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a neurobiological brain disorder that affects approximately 2.3 million Americans today. The disease causes extreme shifts in mood, concentration, and energy levels. These mood shifts can range from very "up," irritable, or energized behavior (manic episodes) to very "down," sad and hopeless behavior (depressive episodes).

There are three types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder: defined as manic episodes that last at least 7 days. Episodes of depression are possible.
  • Bipolar II disorder: pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years.

Aside from the extreme mood swings, bipolar disorder can affect different areas of the body. Since it primarily affects the brain, it can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hyperventilation
  • Change in weight
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stomach aches
  • Muscular pain

However, bipolar disorder can also cause major depression, specifically during periods of extended low-periods. Depression is a medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think, and act. It takes away the ability to experience pleasure, causing severe sadness, decreased appetite, low self-esteem, and irritability. Severe depression can even cause hallucinations or delusions.

While treatment for bipolar depression is typically mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medication, light therapy can help as a non-pharmaceutical option. 

Light therapy treatment in bipolar depression has demonstrated significant effects in treating this mental illness, specifically during depressive periods. One study showed that 67% of patients who were given bright light therapy experienced a full response and remission compared to the 33% who were given a placebo. 

But how does light therapy and bipolar function together? Well, for one, light therapy majorly improves the circadian system. Our circadian rhythms, our 24 biological clocks, are severely disrupted in bipolar disorder. However, manipulating the circadian rhythm via light therapy can help decrease sleep deprivation and improve deep sleep. By improving one’s sleep, and receiving the right amounts of red light, light therapy has positive effects on mood, mental and physical well-being. 

Light therapy also increases cell turnover rate, which helps people operate better at a fundamental level. Having healthy, happy cells is key in optimal mental and physical health. 

Naturally, light therapy isn't a stand-alone solution for bipolar disorder. This treatment can be combined with bipolar medication and therapy. However, with the help of light therapy, patients may be able to lower their dose of medication than otherwise needed. 

At Kaiyan, we're proud to produce MDA-certified and FDA-approved light therapy devices that help people live more balanced and healthy lives. If you've been looking to treat your patients with non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive treatment options for bipolar depression, light therapy is the perfect solution. 

Not only has light therapy shown significant effects on reducing the symptoms of bipolar disorder and depression, but all of Kaiyan's devices are ideal for at-home or in-clinic treatments to improve one's well-being and quality of life.

If you're interested in learning more about light therapy for personal use or for your business, please reach out to our team.