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New Study: Boost Testosterone and Libido with Light Therapy

Researchers say the kind of lamps used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder can also help guys suffering from low sexual desire.

New research from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology is illuminating the benefits of light therapy on sexual satisfaction. 

Exposure to bright light (the same kind used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder) increases testosterone levels and leads to greater sexual satisfaction in men suffering with low libidos, according to researchers. And for the approximately 25 percent of men who report living with low sexual desire at some point in their lives, these findings are a beacon of hope.

In the study, scientists recruited 38 men diagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder or sexual arousal disorder, both of which are characterized by a lack of interest in sex. Each man underwent an initial evaluation to determine their baseline level of interest in sex; their testosterone levels were also measured.

Next, researchers divided participants in half. Every day for two weeks, both groups sat in front of a light box early in the morning for half-hour treatments. One group served as the control group and was treated with an adapted light box, which produced significantly less light.  

After treatment, researchers found testosterone levels increased in men who had been given active light treatment. Their levels boomed from 2.1 ng/ml to 3.6 ng/ml after two weeks, while the control groups' testosterone levels stayed about the same, hovering around 2.3 ng/ml at the beginning and the end of the experiment. 

"Before treatment, both groups averaged a sexual satisfaction score of around 2 out of 10, but after treatment the group exposed to the bright light was scoring sexual satisfaction scores of around 6.3—a more than 3-fold increase on the scale we used," study author Andrea Fagiolini said in a press release. "In contrast, the control group only showed an average score of around 2.7 after treatment."

Previously, research has shown how sexual interest varies according to the seasons—that ambient light may contribute to sexual desire. It all boils down to testosterone.

"In the Northern hemisphere, the body's testosterone production naturally declines from November through April, and then rises steadily through the spring and summer with a peak in October," Fagiolini says. "You see the effect of this in reproductive rates, with the month of June showing the highest rate of conception."

The light box mimics what nature does by triggering something in the brain called the pineal gland (responsible for producing melatonin), which may allow the production of more testosterone, the researchers believe.

But, they stress, these results aren't strong enough yet such that they'll be recommended as a clinical treatment. You could follow a daily regimen if you're interested to try it out yourself; just speak with your doctor first and follow instructions so you don't over-expose yourself to light.

Check out if you're interested in investing in a light or lamp. The lights have UV-free LED units and fluorescent units accompanied with covers. These aren’t sun lamps; they won’t burn skin.

You can also go for a walk early in the morning to sub in for light treatment. As for having sex with the lights on? If it's under a light therapy lamp or fixture, then morning sex can theoretically help boost your performance; but if your libido is lacking to begin with, then it's a little counterintuitive to use sex as your means for boosting it. (Still if you want to give it a go, read 7 ways to boost your body image to help you feel more confident and comfortable in your skin.)

Also, talk to your doctor or specialist about what might be causing your sex drive to nose dive in the first place; it could be due to testosterone injections, antidepressants, and other medications, the researchers say.

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