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Heliotherapy and Tanning Beds
Light therapy, sometimes called heliotherapy, is the use of natural or artificial light to treat disease, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sleep disorders, and skin conditions such as psoriasis.
Exposure to light may be achieved by spending time outdoors, by using a light box specifically designed for use in light therapy, or by using a commercial tanning bed or home tanning bed or canopy.
Exposure to the full-spectrum wavelength of natural sunlight is considered by many light therapy practitioners to be the preferred method of delivery. However, today's hectic lifestyles don't always leave enough room to spend time outdoors. In these cases, indoor tanning may offer a more convenient alternative as the UV light emitted by the tanning bed lamps is identical to that given off by the sun itself.
Light therapy works by regulating the body's circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physiological changes that occur on a 24-hour cycle and are influenced by environmental factors, including the day-night light cycle. These rhythms affect things such as hormone levels, sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin and other brain chemical levels.
SAD and some sleep disorders are believed to be caused by a decrease in the amount of light during the winter season, which throws off a person's circadian rhythms. While some health benefits of light therapy have yet to be documented scientifically, there are countless anecdotal reports of SAD and sleep disorder patients who have enjoyed decreased symptoms within a relatively short period of time undertaking light therapy treatment.
UV light is also known to stimulate the body's production of vitamin D, which is critical in the healthy maintenance of up to thirty body tissues, including brain, breast, and prostate tissue.
While light therapy is known to provide relief from some symptoms, there are certain people who may not be suited to lighter therapy, including:
Anyone with glaucoma, cataracts, or retinal detachment should check with their eye doctor first.
Anyone with rash accompanied by a fever should check with their doctor first.
Anyone whose eyes are sensitive to light should avoid light therapy.
Anyone with bipolar disorder should avoid light therapy.