How Light Can Help Autistic Children With Their Mood and Sleep
Light can have a deep influence on people. Different colored lighting can affect our moods, and a lack of natural light can cause depression. This especially applies to those with autism.
Children with autism are especially susceptible to mood changes due to lighting. Lights with mellow colors, like blue, can help a child relax and become creative. Flickering, humming or harshly colored lights, on the other hand, can confuse and even hurt them. For this reason, it is important that lighting is controllable and monitored in the child’s rooms.
In addition to manufactured lighting, natural lighting also has its affects. Natural lighting has proven benefits for autistic children. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, caused by a lack of natural light during winter months, can foster behavioral issues and depression. Natural light has been shown to relieve these symptoms.
Light therapy has been used for more than just to relieve these symptoms. Natural light can help regulate a child’s circadian rhythms. These rhythms govern our body’s “internal master clock”. For example, they tell us when it’s time to sleep. A lack of natural light can cause our rhythms to fall out of sync. Therefore, treatment can make a child with insomnia fall asleep without aids and become more alert during the day, among other benefits.
For therapy purposes, lights that shine at 10,000 LUX (such as SunBox.com) and emit no ultraviolet light are optimal. The best time for treatment is in the morning, soon after the child rises. Even spending just 30 minutes in the light can improve their mood and sleeping habits. 30 minutes might not be possible in the beginning, however, so while building up to it, another session in the afternoon can help. But therapy at night can have negative effects, worsening a child’s routine and making it harder to fall asleep.