How Light Therapy Can Help Kids With Autism
Good sleep promotes good health.
But for some, the ability to get to sleep—and stay asleep—is elusive. A full 70 percent of American adults report the inability to get a satisfactory night’s sleep at least once a month, and 11 percent say they don’t get enough decent quality sleep every night.
While sleep disorders are less common in children, one group of kids whose nighttime rest is often significantly disrupted are those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to a recent article from sleephealth.org, between 40 and 50 percent of children and adolescents with autism have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Potential Benefits of Light Therapy for Children with Autism
Just as light therapy produces positive effects in adults, it is also safe and effective in children with autism. By understanding how light therapy works and the many ways to use it, you may be able to create an environment in which your child experiences improved sleep quality, fewer behavioral issues, and more.
Let’s take a quick look at the science behind light therapy and sleep disorders.
Why Light Therapy Works
A master clock, located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, regulates the body’s Circadian rhythms. This master clock is extremely light sensitive. Light signals the SCN to release hormones, like serotonin, which helps the body feel awake.
In the presence of darkness, however, serotonin is converted to melatonin—which makes the body feel sleepy. When the SCN does not sense enough light, hormone production is disrupted, leading to various consequences including behavioral issues, altered insulin production, hormonal balances, and… sleep disorders. Exposing your child to periods of bright light in the morning may help regulate the release of melatonin by helping them to feel more awake during the day while sleeping more soundly at night.
Natural Light Therapy for Kids
The best light therapy is the type that filters all UV light and illuminates at 10,000 lux. Simply being near this light for as little as 30 minutes each day, preferably in the morning just after your child wakes up, is often enough to relieve their symptoms and improve sleep. You can also use light therapy with your child in the afternoon, but avoid the use of light boxes in the evening or at night; many researchers believe the wavelengths emitted promote wakefulness. Keep in mind that you may need to work up to 30 minutes per light therapy session.
If you are the parent of a child with autism who is having difficulty sleeping, talk to their pediatrician or psychologist about the potential benefits of light therapy. From wall-mounted products to desk and tabletop models to movable lights on stands, the SunBox Company offers top quality, made-in-America 10,000 lux light therapy boxes that completely filter all UV light. View our extensive product line in our light box store and see how our SunBox products can help promote better sleep while reducing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.