Red Light Therapy - The Physiological Effects of Light and Water in Human Health

Red Light Therapy - The Physiological Effects of Light and Water in Human Health


Red light therapy

Image from Denys Golub

Red light therapy, or photobiomodulation, has been employed to stimulate, heal, and regenerate damaged tissue when used before and after exercise. Thanks to technology, many companies have developed red light therapy devices and machines to be used in the comfort of your own home. 

These red light therapy devices have been developed in compact or full-sized panels to focus the red light on one specific part of the body or the full length of an adult human. Some companies have even developed red light therapy beds similar to suntanning beds, but which only emit certain frequencies of red or near-infrared light and cost an exorbitant amount of money.

But what exactly does red light therapy do? Can red light therapy devices be used frequently without complications? Can someone overdose on red light if it comes from red light therapy devices or machines such as red light therapy beds or panels?

In this article, we will go over relevant concerns with respect to red light therapy at home, and how to use red light therapy in an effective but less expensive way in order to improve health and performance. 

Mechanisms of Light on Health

A person’s propensity for sleep, alertness, and performance are heavily influenced by their body’s circadian rhythm. The light-dark cycle created by the sun in our solar system has entrained nearly all living organisms on planet earth to follow this circadian rhythm.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the human brain secretes melatonin in time with the environment’s light-dark cycle, and synchronizes cellular clocks in all the other bodily tissues and organs to this circadian rhythm (Faulkner, et al. 2019). 

So if we bask in artificial lights from smartphones, computers, televisions, or even the streetlights outside your home when we should be in darkness, could this have an effect on the rest of the body?

Red light therapy

Image by Freepik


Sleep is one of the most important ways for the body to regenerate itself and to maintain good health. If sleep is obstructed, immune regulation, hormonal regulation, cognitive function, cardiovascular and metabolic function are all affected, and the risk of neurodegeneration increases (Vasey, et al., 2021).

Disruption of the circadian rhythm has also been shown to create adverse consequences in digestion. Simply desynchronizing from the sun’s natural light-dark cycle may affect the gut’s ability to regenerate, move food through the intestines, digest and absorb food and electrolytes, and may cause immune response, microbiome diversification, and strength of intestinal barrier to be affected (Voigt, et al., 2019).

Red light therapy

Image from Dmitry Gavin

So if light has an effect on the body’s regulatory systems, is there a way to use light as a way to promote health in the body as well? 

Most likely.

One study has found that light can help with age-related depression, slow down the progressive cognitive decline in dementia, enhance sleep quality and wakefulness, and lead to improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and even Parkinson’s disease (Blume, et al, 2019). 

But what is more interesting is that another study found that an artificial light source with a low color temperature of yellow-orange-red light allowed individuals to secrete more melatonin compared to those treated with light that consisted of more blue light (Lin, et al. 2019).

It seems that red and near-infrared light, specifically, have a regenerative quality that stimulates the mitochondria of the cell to create more energy for muscle work. This would increase energy metabolism, improve defense against oxidative stress, and prevent and repair muscle damage (Ferraresi, et al., 2016).

Red light therapy

Image from Valiant Made

The intensity and color of the light, and the time of day the light is being used, can cause both positive and negative changes in our health, like protection against cellular damage and neurodegeneration, but also create issues with our sleep and digestion, respectively.

It seems that there are little to no drawbacks in using red or near-infrared light, but we should ask ourselves: in nature, where does red light come from and what properties are we missing when using red light in isolation?

There is No Life Without The Sun

All visible light originates from the sun in our solar system. This visible light consists of all the colors from red to violet but also contains non-visible wavelengths such as near-infrared and ultraviolet. This color spectrum changes like a bell-curve during the rising and setting of the sun.

Red light therapy

Image from Hut, et al. (2000)

This means that in nature, red light is present throughout the entire day; however, as the sun rises higher during mid day, it is also accompanied by other wavelengths in a more uniform manner.

One important component that is usually missing from these red light therapy devices is the heat from the sun called infrared, which warms the earth and its inhabitants during the day. This heat is a crucial part to an organism's health due to the properties of water and the way it absorbs infrared within our cells.

When infrared light makes contact with our skin, the water within our bodies begins to structure itself to support the life processes in our biological system. This was demonstrated by Dr. Gerald Pollack and his team, who showed that infrared light caused a restructuring of the water, creating exclusion zone (EZ) water (Kontogeorgis, et al., 2022).

Red light therapy

Image from Pollack G.D. (2013)

But why is creating more EZ water important?

All Life Needs Water To Survive

A healthy living organism relies on optimal cell function. Healthy cells, that allow for the numerous mechanical functions of the body including muscle contractions, hormone secretions, and neuronal transmission in the brain, are surrounded by EZ water (Sharma, et al., 2018).

Red light therapy

Images by Holiak and Freepik

What difference do you notice between a newborn compared to a person who is in their final years of life, relying on a walker to stay upright? Typically, tissues like the skin and muscles look very hydrated with healthy young humans while the unhealthy look dried-out. 

This is why at Functional Patterns, we believe that improving the quality of movement that respect the FP First Four (standing, walking, running, and throwing) will also improve your health and quality of life due to the fact that the capacity to create EZ water is greater when your fascia is more hydrated. 

Red light therapy

As tissues become lengthened from the creation of more contractile potential in the reciprocating muscles, the fascia becomes wrung-out like a dry sponge upon release, allowing more water to be absorbed and allowing for more cellular hydration. 

By improving the way one stands, walks, runs, and throws, one has the ability to increase the amount of water that is being held inside the body, thus allowing more EZ water to be created when one undergoes photobiomodulation.

However, since most red light therapy devices are manufactured to emit only a few wavelengths of red light, is there a more cost effective way to receive red light and maintain our circadian rhythm?

Get Your Skin In The Game

Red light therapy

Image by Mike Luoma

At Functional Patterns, the cheapest, most effective way to get the benefits of red light therapy is resorting to the way nature intended, being outside.

Not only do we receive the specific wavelengths that are found in red light therapy devices, we receive all the other wavelengths at the same time, including infrared and ultraviolet light. 

Now, we do not recommend that you spend all day in the sun if you find yourself sensitive to the sun, as there are different intensities of light between the northern and southern latitudes during the year. However, training the body to be more resilient to the sun gradually is a safe way to get the benefits of red light therapy while saving a ton of money at the same time. 

Why pay for something we get for free everyday? 


Red light therapy devices have become a staple for most athletes and rehabilitation specialists to provide an environment to stimulate and regenerate damaged tissues.

Some may use red light therapy before and after exercise to speed up recovery. These red light therapy machines can be used at home as a red light therapy panel or even a full-sized bed. 

However, many of the red light therapy devices can be quite expensive while only emitting very isolated and specific wavelengths of light. Ignoring the importance of the full-spectrum of light found in the sun means that many benefits that serve the body are left out. 

Through a combination of Functional Patterns training to rehydrate your tissues and spending your recovery time in the warm sun, receiving nature’s red light therapy, you can then create more EZ water and provide an environment for your cells to work more efficiently and create a more efficient energy system for your body. 

Red light therapy

Results by Michael Dugan



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  2. Faulkner, S. M., Bee, P. E., Meyer, N., Dijk, D. J., & Drake, R. J. (2019). Light therapies to improve sleep in intrinsic circadian rhythm sleep disorders and neuro-psychiatric illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep medicine reviews, 46, 108–123.
  3. Ferraresi, C., Huang, Y. Y., & Hamblin, M. R. (2016). Photobiomodulation in human muscle tissue: an advantage in sports performance?. Journal of biophotonics, 9(11-12), 1273–1299.
  4. Hut, Roelof & Scheper, A & Daan, Serge. (2000). Can the circadian system of a diurnal and a nocturnal rodent entrain to ultraviolet light?. Journal of comparative physiology. A, Sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology. 186. 707-15. 10.1007/s003590000124.
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  6. Lin, J., Ding, X., Hong, C. et al. Several biological benefits of the low color temperature light-emitting diodes based normal indoor lighting source. Sci Rep 9, 7560 (2019).
  7. Pollack, G.H. (2013). The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor.
  8. Sharma, A., Adams, C., Cashdollar, B. D., Li, Z., Nguyen, N. V., Sai, H., Shi, J., Velchuru, G., Zhu, K. Z., & Pollack, G. H. (2018). Effect of Health-Promoting Agents on Exclusion-Zone Size. Dose-response : a publication of International Hormesis Society, 16(3), 1559325818796937.
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  10. Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2019). Circadian rhythms: a regulator of gastrointestinal health and dysfunction. Expert review of gastroenterology & hepatology, 13(5), 411–424.
  11. Zhao, J., Tian, Y., Nie, J., Xu, J., & Liu, D. (2012). Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players.
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