Red Light Therapy for Mental Health

Red Light Therapy for Mental Health: Benefits & More

Table of Contents

If you’re experiencing severe depression, anxiety, mood swings, or PTSD, you’re probably willing to try anything to make things better.

Well, what if you could improve your condition by exposing yourself to red light?

As it turns out, you may be able to do just that.

Over the years, several studies have determined that red light therapy—a treatment that involves shining red light on your body—can have all kinds of mental health benefits, along with improving sleep quality.

If you’re interested in experimenting with a new form of mental health treatment, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re exploring the reported health benefits of red light therapy, advice on how to approach it, and the potential side effects.

How Red Light Therapy Works for Mental Health

Red light therapy (RLT), also called low-level laser light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation, is a medical treatment that exposes the body to visible red light and invisible infrared light waves.1

So, how does red light therapy work? Red light therapy devices, such as masks, wands, portable saunas, and other devices, transmit visible red light to your skin at specific wavelengths between 630 and 700 nanometers.2 Some devices also transmit near-infrared light, which has a slightly longer wavelength.

The primary use of RLT is usually related to skincare; it has been shown to help with acne, scarring, and wrinkles.3 However, researchers and at-home users have also experienced the benefits of red light therapy for mental health.

Let’s take a look at how it works.

The Mechanisms Behind the Therapy

The science behind RLT is relatively simple.

As you may remember from science class, every cell in your body has a “powerhouse” called the mitochondria. These organelles generate the energy that powers your cells’ biochemical reactions.4

When the mitochondria in your skin cells are exposed to red light, they absorb it and produce more energy. The theory is that this absorption helps cells repair themselves and improve overall health.5

Role of Neurotransmitters and Brain Function Improvement

Because your nerve cells produce essential neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and others,6 cell health is extremely important. If the mitochondria in these cells have more energy and can perform better, your brain functions should theoretically improve.

According to the research that we’ll touch on later, such an improvement can impact your mental health.

Key Mental Health Benefits of Red Light Therapy

While people using a red light therapy device have reported all sorts of different effects, such as wound healing and aid with chronic pain, we’ll focus on three key mental health benefits from studies over the past 15 years.

Anxiety and Depression

Depression and anxiety affect millions of people around the world. Luckily, red light therapy may be able to change that.

Back in 2009, a small study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety found that RLT had real benefits.7 Two weeks after RLT treatment was given to the right and left forehead, 6 out of 10 of the patients reported lower levels of depression. Meanwhile, 7 out of 10 reported improvements in anxiety.

Although the sample size in this study was small, it showed promising results for people suffering from anxiety and depression.

Cognitive Functions and Neuroregeneration

RLT may also boost overall cognitive functions and encourage neuroregeneration.

Many studies have been done on patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), Alzheimer’s Disease, and other conditions that affect normal brain function. In one such study done in 2023, three older adults with mild cognitive impairment received nine weeks of RLT treatment to the head.

The study found that all three adults enjoyed improvements in frontal lobe cognitive functions, performing better in verbal memory and fluency tests.8

Once again, the sample size may have been small, but the results are promising—and this isn’t the only test that’s been done.

Red Light Therapy in Treating Specific Conditions

Along with some general mental health benefits, RLT has also been used in some cases to treat specific conditions. Let’s explore some of them in more detail.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, is a yearly affliction that causes millions to experience sadness in the fall and winter.9

Because there’s evidence that RLT can reduce levels of anxiety and depression, some people affected by SAD use the red light treatment to improve their symptoms.

Those people may be on to something. One study found that even a single session of red light therapy can help with the depressive symptoms that SAD sufferers feel.10

Post-Traumatic Brain Injury and Neurodegenerative Diseases

While some conditions have been minimally researched, the use of RLT on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and neurodegenerative diseases has been well-studied.

In a study of 12 veterans with TBIs, researchers found that red and near-infrared light therapy increased blood flow in the brain and produced cognitive improvements.11 Another study from 2014 explored treatment for mild TBIs and found similar results; patients reported improvements in social, interpersonal, and occupational functions.12

As for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, the results have also been positive. Research from 2023 found that near-infrared light treatment can improve cognitive function and the activities of daily living in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.13

In general, red light therapy delivered to the head may be beneficial for many types of brain disorders, including14:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Huntington’s disease
  • ALS

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

People struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may also be able to find comfort in red light therapy. Some studies have shown promising results.

However, at this point, most studies on near-infrared light therapy and PTSD have been performed on animals.15

With that said, many of the symptoms of PTSD —including anxiety and depression—can be improved by RLT. So, there’s reason to believe that the treatment may at least be somewhat helpful for PTSD patients.

Practical Guidance on Using Red Light Therapy

If you experience symptoms of any of the above conditions or your doctor has suggested red light therapy, you may be curious to try it.

However, there are so many different types of RLT devices out there. From red light therapy belts to red light knee braces, which one should you choose? Let’s take a look.

Selecting the Right Equipment

Because you’re using red light therapy for brain health, the ideal device is worn on or near the head. However, other RLT equipment for the rest of the body can also improve your mental health.

Here are three pieces of equipment you may find useful:

  • A mask – RLT masks are common as skin health products, but they can also help deliver red light to your head.
  • A wand – An RLT wand, such as the LumiCure Torchlight from Lifepro, is handy since you can use it anywhere.
  • A sauna blanketPersonal saunas transmit infrared light to the rest of your body. Although your head doesn’t go into the blanket, you can still enjoy mental health benefits, as sauna treatments can relieve stress and anxiety.

Challenges and Considerations

While red light therapy is beneficial, it’s not a perfect treatment. Below, we’ll look at some of the limitations and possible side effects of RLT.

Limitations and Research Gaps

Although red light therapy appears to be promising, the jury’s still out on the exact effectiveness of the treatment—especially when it comes to mental health.

Some health authorities, such as Cleveland Clinic, state that there is “no scientific evidence to support red light therapy use in… mental health concerns like depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”16

With that said, thousands of people have reported personal benefits when using RLT. And many studies, including the ones we’ve shared in this guide, seem to have confirmed the positive effects of the treatment.

The bottom line is there’s no clear consensus. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle; RLT may not improve every condition for everyone, but there’s certainly value for many people. Ultimately, more research needs to be performed on RLT and mental health.

For now, if you’re considering red light therapy, you need to balance the reported benefits with the potential side effects (with help from your doctor).

Safety and Side Effects

What are those side effects, exactly? Luckily, they’re minimal. Red light therapy uses safe, non-invasive technology.

Most of the potential side effects of RLT are caused by improper usage. For example, keeping the RLT device on for too long (more than 30 minutes) could cause blistering, burns, or lesions on the affected area.17

As such, you shouldn’t undergo red light therapy for longer than your doctor suggests. In patients prone to forgetfulness or falling asleep, RLT device usage should be monitored.

Other potential side effects include damage to the eyes. Although the lights used in RLT are relatively safe, prolonged exposure can be harmful. Don’t look at the lasers for too long, and wear eye protection when possible.

Ultimately, even if you don’t receive all the benefits of RLT, there’s little risk in trying—as long as you’re careful. Of course, be sure to talk to your doctor before attempting any new treatments.

Discover Lifepro Red Light Therapy Devices Today

Your mental health matters. And if there’s something new you can try to improve it, it only makes sense that you would want to experiment.

If you’ve decided you want to give red light therapy a go, Lifepro can help.

With our range of RLT and near-infrared products, you can find an affordable, high-quality version of the equipment your doctor recommends. Try red light therapy today, and see the mental health potential for yourself!


  1. Healthline. Let It Shine: Why More People Are Trying Red Light Therapy.
  2. Today. What is red light therapy? The treatment is going viral for skin, hair and exercise benefits.
  3. CNN. What is red light therapy for skin? Experts explain the anti-aging benefits.
  4. National Human Genome Research Institute. Mitochondria.
  5. WebMD. What Is Red Light Therapy?
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Neurotransmitters.
  7. National Institutes of Health. Psychological benefits 2 and 4 weeks after a single treatment with near infrared light to the forehead: a pilot study of 10 patients with major depression and anxiety.
  8. Frontiers in Psychology. Photobiomodulation improves frontal lobe cognitive functions and mental health of older adults with non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment: Case studies.
  9. National Institute of Mental Health. Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  10. National Institutes of Health. Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  11. Research Outreach. Light therapy improves cognitive function after traumatic brain injury.
  12. National Institutes of Health. Significant Improvements in Cognitive Performance Post-Transcranial, Red/Near-Infrared Light-Emitting Diode Treatments in Chronic, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Open-Protocol Study.
  13. National Institutes of Health. A Pilot Study of Near-Infrared Light Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease.
  14. National Institutes of Health. Shining light on the head: Photobiomodulation for brain disorders.
  15. HealthMatch. Shining A Light On PTSD.
  16. Cleveland Clinic. Red Light Therapy.
  17. Healthline. What Is Red Light Therapy and How Does It Work?


Joel Gottehrer

Joel Gottehrer is the Co-Founder of Lifepro Fitness and has dedicated his life to helping people transform theirs. With over 12 years of experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and owner of two personal training studios, Joel has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping transform lives. After suffering from physical injuries, Joel and his business partner, Abraham Brach, came together with a common goal to alleviate the pain caused by their injuries.

They continued to find themselves disappointed with the results stemming from various products promising to relieve their pain, and with that – Lifepro Fitness was born. Joel's mission is to have a positive impact on millions of lives with the Lifepro brand. Whether it's finding new and innovative ways to help people recover from injuries or developing products to improve overall wellness, Joel is always looking for ways to push the boundaries. Thanks to his commitment to help people live their lives free of pain, Lifepro has been able to do this for thousands of people since its founding in 2017.

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