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What is the Difference Between Red Light, Infrared and Near Infrared Light Therapy?

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It’s hard to deny that sunshine and daylight feels good for the body and mind. We all need vitamin D to be healthy, and some people suffer greatly from a lack of it.

Light impacts our bodies and minds in several ways – it regulates our internal clock through our sleep and waking cycles. This in turn affects our capacity to interact with the world around us and how engaged we are with things like people, our work, and other stimuli the world throws at us.

Light therapy is useful when we don’t get enough natural light and through the shorter, darker days of the winter months. Exposure to light for as little as 30 minutes a day (or more!) can help release hormones and chemicals in the brain that affect the mood and can induce happiness, as well as boost cognitive function, and relieve sleep disorders and depression.

Many people have seen or used light therapy lamps in order to combat things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but there are other light therapies, too.

Let’s take a look at the common forms of light therapy – red light, infrared, and near infrared – and their therapeutic effects on the body.

When it comes to measuring the effects of light therapy, it’s good to know that the longer (more stretched out) the wavelength, the deeper the light can penetrate in order to deliver energy to the cells. This is what stimulates healing and pain relief.

Red light:

Red light falls into the visible part of the light spectrum between 630-700 nm on the Electromagnetic spectrum scale. This form is often used to treat the surface of the skin.


Infrared therapy uses light that is on the visible part of the spectrum that falls between 400 nm to 480 nm. Therapeutic infrared light therapy is very useful and may help to regulate sleep patterns, improve mood, make it easier to concentrate and engage in problem-solving, as well as regulate hormones.

Near infrared:

Near infrared wavelengths is much different that the previous two light therapies because it is part of the invisible light spectrum fall into the part of the light spectrum between 700 and 1200 nm.

The benefits are many, including that it can: boost metabolism, stimulate white blood cell production (which helps fight cancer cells) and promote cell regeneration, reduce body fat, increase and improve circulation, and help promote healing and faster muscle recovery after a work out.

People who are exposed to near infrared light in a therapeutic form have reported feeling relief in joint and muscle pain, improved flexibility and deeper sleeps. It can also have a detoxification effect on the body on a cellular level.

Light therapy affects mood, circadian rhythm and other body processes, while near infrared therapy can penetrate human tissue in order to stimulate cell turnover and decrease inflammation and reduce pain.

While very different forms of energy, both are beneficial. If you are feeling a lack of energy or aches and pains, light therapy comes in many different form and it’s the kind of passive thing you can be exposed to that makes a big difference on a person’s health and well-being.