We all know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep at any age. It’s more than just the amount of sleep we get, it’s the quality that also matters. Our personal experiences tell us that sleep can affect how we move through the day. So, we will do what we can to give ourselves the most restful sleep. Luckily for us there’s enough research to support our need for a good sleep. There are also ways to wind down to help us achieve our sleep goals. The latest scientific findings include red light therapy. 

In recent years, we’ve heard of red light therapy within the skincare and medical communities. Now, the sleep experts are finding red light has many benefits as well. 

Backed by research conducted by NASA, there’s a device on the marketplace that is gaining the attention of consumer and sleep experts alike. Helight Sleep is a simple device inspired by those findings that is helping users get a better night’s sleep. 

I was curious. Elite athletes including those in NHL, MLB, MLS, Olympians and FIFA, have turned to red light therapy for their recovery and sleep efforts. Now, even amongst my circle of friends I have already started hearing about the benefits for both home and on their travels. I haven’t discovered anything like this in the marketplace.

What is it? 

Helight Sleep is an award-winning patented sleep aid device that uses red light to help people fall asleep faster. It also works to promote a deeper and more restful sleep with proven results. Developed with the help of a renowned French sleep disorder expert, and designed in Canada, this patented protocol has been proven to enhance sleep. It is the first non-invasive sleep aid that requires no user attention or intervention. There’s also no subscription or app required.

How to use this sleep device?

The device sits on your bedside table and one push of a button is all it takes. The device glows red and gradually fades within 28 minutes before it turns itself off. No need for you to do anything more. Why 28 minutes? According to Helight Sleep, it’s a good average sleep onset time. The light is actually split in half. The first 14 minutes is full power and enough light is emitted to signal the brain. The light gradually fades out for the remaining 14 minutes. I didn’t even notice it shutting down while I was testing it out. 

How far should the sleep device be to be effective

“According to the measurements and values that were given to us by the scientific experts who helped develop the device, 50cm 90° from the head… So in other words: most night stands,” said Greg Bonnier, Vice-President product development. “That being said, it’s very individual dependent. Some people are more sensitive to light than others and also depending on placement in relationship to walls, colour of the walls and overall potential for diffusion, one may want to experiment on the first few days.”

The Helight Sleep also included 3 power settings to accommodate if placement areas are limited. If you keep your finger on the button while turning on, it’ll cycle through the 3 settings. Try doing it in a dark room, as it might be too subtle in broad daylight but becomes very apparent in a darker room.

Sounds too good to be true? 

Bonnier tells us it’s no surprise that people may be skeptical at first. “This is our hardest hurdle getting people to try it,” said Bonnier. “It looks too simple and too good to be true! But once you understand the way it works, it makes a lot of sense.” 

Understanding how blue light has impacted us is also important. “We have so much trouble getting to sleep since the inception of LED based screens and ambient lighting in our lives. Even if they are set to “warm”, they emit a lot more blue light component than what we were exposed to 10-20 years ago at nighttime. This is something that is now well documented and that is generally known by the public. So when we think about it, it makes a lot of sense that light has so much impact on our circadian rhythm, after all, we’re all naturally programmed to follow the sun. As described above blue light = day, warm light = sunset, and biologically, that’s when we should be going to sleep! 

Here’s a very interesting interview where Dr. Ed O’Malley describes the effect of being exposed to sunset light to tell our brain it’s nighttime: https://youtu.be/ESff3NLsUfE?t=665

What’s the difference between this sleep device and the red light therapy used in other forms (e.g. skincare)?

The long answer, according to Bonnier… “to get the benefits from red light therapy, you need a high dose of photons, at a specific, narrow bandwidth wavelength (optimally ranged between 630-660nm). This light gets through the skin and gives your cells a boost in energy, a phenomenon we call photobiomodulation that has been used in medicine for a number of years and has many benefits, mainly on what is inflammatory in nature. However, one of the other effects of this phenomenon is on sleep, which is something we’ve personally observed in clients using our professional photobiomodulation device (which is 100x more powerful) and better explained in this 2012 study.

.This experience and NASA‘s previous research on the relationship of light exposure and sleep, is what prompted us to find out if there was a more effective and more affordable way to harness this benefit. This is how we got to develop Helight Sleep. Contrary to photobiomodulation, the same wavelength at a much lower power can be beneficial not through skin, but through signalling cells in our retina that it’s night and that it’s time to relax and go to sleep. These are the same cells which are responsible for keeping you up at night by looking at your phone. The blue component of this light is telling your brain not to sleep, as it mimics the sun in the morning and during the day, which inhibits secretion of hormones related to sleep, mainly melatonin. By mimicking the red component of the sunset, we’re signalling the brain that it’s about to be night and that it’s time for melatonin secretion.

Since the device is meant to be used when going to bed it was important that it was set at an intensity that is below the threshold where even red light might keep you awake, but above the threshold where it wouldn’t have any effect. That’s part of the secret of why it’s so effective. The other part is something that is unwanted in photobiomodulation but crucial to our protocol: a long fade out. The idea is to slowly turn off the light, as all experts will agree the optimal sleeping conditions are in perfect darkness. But turning it off all of a sudden would wake you back up, so we’ve established this 14 minutes fade out to make sure the light shutting off is as imperceptible as possible. 

However, there is one similarity with photobiomodulation: light quality. Since we had such good feedback with our photobiomodulation device, we decided to use the same LED which happens to be expensive, but is as precise as it gets. It’s important to note that not all lights are created equal and even if a light is perceived as red, it can be very different to ours in terms of spectral density and range. Our light is calibrated at 630nm and emits almost exclusively light around this wavelength, making it very precise.”

sleep quality

But what if you don’t actually fall asleep after 28 minutes?

We know that feeling! When so much is weighing on your mind it can feel like nothing can help. So, can you try another round?

Yes, and the company would actually recommend it. They also tell us it’s great to help fall back asleep. “We’ve also had people use it, despite not having any trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and seeing an improvement on their energy levels upon waking,” said Bonnier. “We’ve had several clients measure an increase in their deep sleep scores using sleep tracking devices like smart rings. In fact this is why we have so many athletes using the device. They might not have trouble falling asleep, but if they sleep deeper, they have a more restorative sleep which in turn positively affects their alertness and performance.”

What is important for people to understand is that everyone is different and results may vary depending on the individual. “We’ve had people see the benefits from day one, we’ve had people see the difference after 30 days and albeit a minority, we’ve had some people not see any difference. We’ve had people see a difference in such a gradual way that they only realized how well they were sleeping after stopping using it for a while… Some of them returned it and bought it back! We’ve had people say it has helped them a little, others telling us it’s the only thing that fixed their sleep issues despite having tried everything else, even chemical solutions. We are all built the same but we are all different. You must try it for yourself to see how it will work for you.”

The company is conscious it might not be for everyone but Bonnier tells us that many people who were skeptics ended up adopting the device out of the positive impact it has on their lives. For that reason, they are offering a 60 night trial period with a money-back guarantee if bought on their website, so everyone has the chance to try it. If it doesn’t work, they understand; they don’t believe in selling a customer something that doesn’t help. He also mentioned that 95% of the people who have tried the Helight Sleep has been happy with the device. 

Best sleep wind-down routine?

The Helight Sleep was designed to be as simple as possible to use. He recommends putting it on the nightstand (some people are more sensitive to light and prefer it above their head, say on a shelf or on the bedhead), turn it on, go about your sleep routine and get in your sleeping position as per usual. Some people actually like to read with it for a bit before going to bed. It’s also perfectly compatible with any other sleep aid you might be using: sound boxes, breathing exercises, meditation… As long as it does not emit light. It goes without saying that looking at a screen while using the device will completely negate its benefits, as it’s the opposite signal, as far as your brain is concerned.

Can you over use the device?

“There is no overuse of the device, in fact it’s meant to be used consistently every night. In rare occurrences, if it takes longer to go to sleep, a user may turn it back on, and that’s not a problem,” said Bonnier. “We also have a lot of people using it to help them relax and fall back asleep in the middle of the night. You can’t get accustomed to it, since it’s a biological response, not a drug or synthetic hormones. You’re simply helping your brain understand it’s nighttime. Most people who buy it will use it every night. We’ve had people buy it when it came out in 2020, still using it everyday, and I’m glad to hear it! It was built with this in mind, the LED won’t burn anytime soon, it’s rated for 50,000 hours!”

What about children?

I’ve noticed there’s a version of the Helight designed specifically for kids. According to Bonnier, the technology is the same and the same biological principle applies, so the parameter values are the same. The difference is simply in the design. It’s even lighter just in case it drops, so it wouldn’t hurt any little toes. He tells us parents were already using the regular version with kids and even infants. So, it made sense to create one just for kids. It also does not use paint. It’s safe to use even with infants in cribs. 

Helight Sleep and Helight Kidzzz devices are available online. Great for travellers too who need to adjust to time changes. You can learn more and order here.

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