I Tried A Red Light Device To Fall Asleep Faster & It Actually Worked

Helight Sleep is inspired by a technique NASA uses to help astronauts get rest.

Red light therapy sleep lights can help you fall asleep, according to researchers.
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Get this: When I woke up this morning, I actually wanted to get out of bed. Instead of cocooning myself in blankets and sleepily scrolling social media for an hour, I sprang up like all the peppy wellness influencers on TikTok and started to check things off my to-do list.

After making my bed, I went on a walk, whipped up a photo-worthy breakfast, and even did my skin care routine — things that usually feel impossible early in the day when I’m groggy from lack of sleep.

As someone who struggles with insomnia, it was a nice change to have this much energy. While I’d like to say it was due to a random burst of motivation, all the credit goes to a nifty little sleep tool that’s been helping me get more rest.

For the past week, I’ve been testing Helight Sleep, a device that emits snooze-inducing red light just like the kind NASA astronauts use to regulate their sleep/wake cycles. In space, they turn on different lights — blue in the morning, white in the day, and red at night — to mimic the natural phases of light on earth, and you can apply the same science can be used at home. When red light casts a rosy hue across your bedroom, it signals to your brain that it’s time to time to relax.

On a typical night, I go to bed shrouded in bright, blue light from my phone and laptop screen — and then wonder why I can’t fall asleep. It was a huge change to turn everything off and kick back in a red room instead, but I can say it made all the difference in the world.

Keep reading below for my honest review of Helight Sleep.

Fast Facts

  • Price: $139
  • Best for: Improving sleep, deep sleep, natural sleep
  • My rating: 5/5
  • What we like: Easy to use, portable, effective, no app or subscription needed
  • What we don't like: Expensive

What Is Helight Sleep?

The Helight Sleep device shines 630 nanometers of red light. Research has shown that exposure to this specific wavelength of light before bed significantly influences your body’s sleep/wake cycle.

Red light therapy naturally signals to your brain that it’s time to rest, and it may also play a role in releasing melatonin, aka the sleep hormone that makes it easier to snooze — all without having to take melatonin.

The device glows bright red for 14 minutes before it gradually dims and eventually turns off after 28 minutes, which mirrors the natural cycle of light at the end of the day as a red sunset fades into night. Since we live in a world that’s full of screens, sleep-ruining blue light, and weird work schedules, red light is a helpful way to get your brain back on track.

How To Use Helight

When your Helight arrives, simply charge it up for three hours using the provided USB power chord and it’ll be good to go for a few nights — though it’s also OK to leave it plugged in. If the battery is low, the light will flash a few times to let you know.

Even if you might be tempted to fall asleep with your phone in hand and a comfort TV show playing in the background, Helight works best when you use it with everything else turned off. When the red light fills your room, it’s picked up via the photosensitive cells in your peepers, so you can lay in bed with your eyes open or closed.

If the red is too intense, you can adjust the brightness by holding down the power button. That’ll allow you to cycle through a few different settings. The red light will have the same effect on your sleep at any intensity you choose, and it will always stay on for the full 28 minutes.

You can turn on the Helight once you get into bed as a way to wind down and fall asleep, and you can turn it on again in the middle of the night if you wake up. It’s also ideal for travel and jet lag, since it helps reset your sleep/wake cycle.

My Experience

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I have to say, it was a little bit creepy to close my laptop, put my phone screen-side down, and exist quietly in a glowing red room. It was giving spooky Halloween vibes, but as I laid there bathed in crimson, I realized all the tension in my body was melting away.

At first I chalked it up to the lack of stimulation. As a wellness writer, I know that it’s bad to stare at screens and take in information before bed. Even though it’s comforting in the moment to scroll TikTok or respond to a group chat, the blue light from your screen ultimately keeps you awake for longer.

So yes, my sleepiness could be attributed to finally putting my phone down, but honestly the red glow felt different when compared to a truly pitch black room. It seemed to be counteracting all the blue light I’d taken in throughout the day — and it really did feel like it was reminding my brain that it was time to sleep.

While I did occasionally glance at my phone once I got under the covers — and yes, I did have a comedy podcast gently playing in the background — I could still tell that my eyes were getting heavier a little faster than usual. Instead of lying awake for hours, I peacefully drifted off after about 30 minutes. And I also slept later into the night.

Typically, I’ll wake up around 2 a.m., but on my first night using Helight I made it all the way to four. At that point, I turned the Helight back on and let it work its magic again. Sure enough, I fell back asleep with a little more ease.

The next night, I closed up shop with my all my devices, let Helight turn my bedroom red, and proceeded to sleep like an actual rock. While I thought I would miss the distracting flicker of a movie, it was clear I needed the red instead.

The Takeaway

While it can take up to 21 days to reset your sleep and feel the full effects of red light therapy, I noticed a difference right away — and it only seemed to get better as the week went on.

As an insomniac, I didn’t think a little light on my bedside table would make that much of a difference, but it really did.

According to Helight, you’ll know the red light is having a positive effect if you fall asleep easily, sleep deeply, and wake up with more energy. Personally, it looks like me and my brand new morning routine are checking all of those boxes.

Studies referenced:

Brainard, GC. (2016). The development of lighting countermeasures for sleep disruption and circadian misalignment during spaceflight. Curr Opin Pulm Med. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000329.

Ferraresi, C. (2016). Photobiomodulation in human muscle tissue: an advantage in sports performance? J Biophotonics. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201600176.

Randjelović, P. (2023). The effect of reducing blue light from smartphone screen on subjective quality of sleep among students. Chronobiol Int. doi: 10.1080/07420528.2023.2173606.

van Maanen, A. (2016). The effects of light therapy on sleep problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2015.08.009.

van der Meijden, WP. (2018). Sustained effects of prior red light on pupil diameter and vigilance during subsequent darkness. Proc Biol Sci. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0989.

Wu, B. (2018). On-orbit sleep problems of astronauts and countermeasures. Mil Med Res. doi: 10.1186/s40779-018-0165-6.

Yeager, RL. (2007). Melatonin as a principal component of red light therapy. Med Hypotheses. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.12.041.

Zhao, J. (2012). Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. J Athl Train. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.08.