Sunday 20 September 2020

My experience with the Allay Lamp

I have been fascinated by the Allay lamp ever since I first heard about it during this year’s Migraine World Summit. Dr Rami Burstein (Harvard Medical school), shared the science behind green light therapy and how the innovation of the Allay lamp could help migraine patients. So, I was excited when Allay offered to send me the lamp to try out as I was very intrigued to see how it would help with my pain and light sensitivity. 

What is the Allay Lamp?

The Allay lamp is a “non-irritating lamp for migraine patients”. It emits a specific narrow band of green light that has been found to not only be a tolerable light source for migraine patients but also help reduce their symptoms. It was designed in order to try and enable patients to continue to function using the light of the Allay lamp and avoid having to retreat to the dark.

Light sensitivity and migraine?

80% of migraine patients report light sensitivity as one of their symptoms. In fact, it’s part of the diagnostic criteria. Chances are if you are light sensitive with a headache, you’re experiencing migraine.

Like many other chronic migraine patients, I’m never without my sunglasses and find the darker months during Autumn and Winter particularly challenging due to the need for artificial lights. I struggle with the contrast of the dark outside and artificial lights in my home from lamps.

Science behind Allay and green light therapy?

Dr Burstein found that light is not only bothersome for migraine patients but that it actually makes their pain worse. Light increases the intensity of pain by about 20-25%.

He specifically found that blue and red light make the head more painful whereas green light had the opposite effect. Green light decreased head pain along with other autonomic symptoms.

Dr Burstein conducted further research and found that migraine patients who were exposed to green light for 2- 2.5 hours experienced a reduction in their pain along with a lift in brain fog, less anxiety and improvement in cognitive function. To read more about the science of light sensitivity, see my notes from the Migraine World Summit talk here..

How much does it cost?

The lamp costs $149.  You can get get $25 off by using my referral link.

First impressions?

Of course my main hope with the Allay lamp was that it would help my pain or symptoms in some way but I was pleasantly surprised that it also looks pretty stylish too. When it arrived it honestly felt like receiving an Apple product due to the super chic, minimalist packaging and branding. The lamp itself is sleek and compact and has an attractive casing around it. I later learned that this casing not only looks good but is crucial to the function of the lamp (more on the casing later on).

The lamp was easy to set up and comes with a USB charging cable. Once fully charged the lamp lasts for 32 hours. The Allay also comes with an adjustable shade so you can have maximum control over where you want the light to be.
There is a touch power button on the top along with a simple drag button to change the intensity of the light. If you flip the lamp over it also doubles up as a regular lamp which is a really nice touch. It has a lovely soft focus due to the casing material.

 After testing out the lamp for a few weeks myself at home I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr Burstein. I had the chance to ask my questions and some of your burning questions you had also sent me. Our talk was extremely informative and helped me to realise I was actually not using the lamp in the most effective way.

Questions for Dr Burstein
Why can’t I use a regular lamp with a green LED?

It took a long time to develop the right casing to allow the right wavelength of light from the Allay. It is the exact material that allows the right type of light through. A regular green LED lamp would not work - it’s too harsh!

Should I sit and stare at the lamp during attacks?

No. Don’t sit and stare directly at it. This was a mistake I made. I thought I had to sit and stare directly at the lamp during an attack. The contrast of doing this in a dark room was actually a little too much for my eyes. Dr Burstein recommends placing the lamp up high somewhere in your room either on a shelf or mount it on the ceiling and let it illuminate the entire room with green light. You do not need to sit and stare directly at the lamp.

Do your eyes need to be open?

Yes. The green light needs to get into your eye in order to get to the brain.

Acute vs Preventative?

Before speaking with Dr Burstein I had been solely trying to use the lamp to treat acute attacks. Chatting with Dr Burstein I realised that in fact it was created more with the intention not to treat attacks but to allow patients to continue going about their daily life without having to go and be in complete darkness in bed. The aim is that it allows patients to continue with daily routine without exacerbating their headache from light. I was surprised to learn that I was the first patient who had asked him specifically about using it to treat attacks whilst in bed. Most of the other patients he had spoken with were using it as an alternative light source to minimise migraine symptoms instead of a as a specific acute therapy.

Does it need to be pitch black when I use the Allay lamp?

No. It needs to be dark ideally but we don’t want to replace darkness with green light. It should be used instead of another light source.

Dr Burstein also stressed that the Allay lamp won’t work for everyone. The findings from the study were really encouraging along with what’s being reported by patients since the launch of the lamp but there is still no one treatment that works for everyone with migraine. Most patients have found the lamp to be soothing and calming.

If you are photophobic with migraine the Allay lamp should eliminate that element of your attack so you don’t HAVE to be in a dark room.

My experience?

The bit you have all been waiting for. I’ve been asked so many times since mentioning the Allay lamp on my Instagram “does it work?!”. I’m still experimenting with the lamp and using it in different positions and on different intensities of light but this is where I’m at with it so far.

I LOVE using it in the evenings as an alternative to a lamp. I use it whilst I’m in the bath and getting ready for bed. It means that I don’t have to use a lamp or main room light which would normally hurt my eyes. I was forever using cushions to block out the direct light from a lamp. With the Allay I don’t have to do this. It allows me to see but the light it emits doesn’t hurt my eyes or make my pain worse.

When using the Allay lamp at night I find that the contrast between the dark and the green light is too much for me to directly stare at the lamp or have it in my line of vision (as Dr Burstein suggested it might be). I find if I place it in my room to the side or behind me it works best. This allows me to benefit from the green light without staring directly at the lamp itself.

I haven’t found it as practical to use in the summer months except from close to bedtime as it’s been light enough outside that I haven’t been needing any extra artificial lights. If you’re anything like me, you will avoid turning on lights inside until it’s absolutely necessary. As we enter into Autumn and it begins to get darker earlier and earlier again, I’m excited to have a new light source that will hopefully allow me to function for longer without having to go to bed. I think it will be really useful when I’m cooking for example and would normally have to rely on big overhead lights in the kitchen.

The part I was most intrigued about was would the Allay lamp reduce my pain during an attack.

I’m still testing this out but so far, my answer is unfortunately no. The lamp does however allow me to be in a room that isn’t completely blacked out which is nice. The severity of my pain is usually what sends me to bed as opposed to my light sensitivity. I have found that during the day if I have to go to bed with an attack, the green light does relax me and help with that initial anxiety at the attack sets in. I personally think it’s quite challenging to test the effectiveness during an attack as you have to balance the right level of dark and also have to keep your eyes open. When my pain is bad, I can’t help but crawl into bed and close my eyes. I have found it to be really useful for lower level attacks where I haven’t had to go to bed properly but still need to be resting somewhat in my room. It provides me with a light source that doesn’t irritate me or make my symptoms worse.

So in summary, I would definitely recommend the Allay if you are photophobic with migraine. It’s amazing to have a light source that doesn’t make you wince and screw up your face when you look at it.

Will it replace my triptan and Cefaly combo for attacks? Sadly not, but I will keep testing it out during attacks especially during the darker months and let you know how I get on.

 It’s important to note that I’m on the more extreme end of the scale with migraine. I have chronic migraine with daily head pain. My pain and attacks are more difficult to treat than say your typical episodic migraine patient.

Have you tried the Allay? I would love to hear your thoughts and how you are getting on with it?

*Allay gifted me the Allay lamp to try in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that the referral link for $25 off is an affiliate link.


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