NIR For Increasing Focus / Attentiveness

This is a short series of posts on my experiments using NIR (near infrared) light to improve circulation in the brain. Specifically, the frontal and pre-frontal lobes.

What is this?

This is a short series of posts on using NIR (near infrared) light to improve circulation in the brain. Specifically, the frontal and pre-frontal lobes.

This little experiment finds its roots here. At its essence, user manmal claims that they have seen great increases in productivity from using NIR:

Before I started the near infrared routine (~5 minutes every other day), 5-6 hours of coding per day was all I could do - eg after coding for 8h, I noticed serious cognitive and emotional decline, and might need to do less the following day. Not anymore - nowadays I can be productive whenever I’m awake, with little side effects.

User manmal cited this video as their source for inspiration:

dr_dshiv provides the abstract from this study:

Transcranial infrared laser stimulation is a new non‐invasive form of low‐level light therapy that may have a wide range of neuropsychological applications. It entails using low‐power and high‐energy‐density infrared light from lasers to increase metabolic energy. Preclinical work showed that this intervention can increase cortical metabolic energy, thereby improving frontal cortex‐based memory function in rats. […]

The wavelength of light identified was 850nm, though manmal says that 850nm is more effective than 830nm.

Manmal identified this device as what they used: KKMoon IR-Strahler

and followed on by saying this device would also work: Univivi IR Illuminator

An interesting aside (with unfortunately no follow-up) was given by viach:

This is a widely known effect. I work for a big outsourcing company, they equip developers in open spaces with small personal infrared LEDs. It can be mounted to a headset and programmatically connected to pomodoro time tracker, so that they are switched on during rest periods automatically.

NIR Application, Week 1


5 minutes, every other day.


On first use, I noticed some of the physical effects that mentioned. Namely, tingling in my nasal cavity, and a burning/electrical smell.

The sense of fogginess and heaviness behind my eyes went away after about three or four minutes.

Focus and clear thinking were the themes over the next 30 or so hours. After about 48 hours the heaviness behind my eyes started to come back.

I noticed that the effects started fading about halfway through the off days.

I agree with manmal’s claim that focus while tired is not an issue.


This doesn’t make new habits. The only effect I’ve noticed is that executive function is a lot easier; I can focus long enough to respond intelligently during a conversation, I can hold a train of thought long enough to actually engage with it and manipulate it mentally, I can focus much more easily when there is background noise, and so on…

NIR Application, Week 2


3 minutes, daily (in the morning)


I switched to daily dosing to see if I can get around the fatigue that sets in part way through rest days.

Not getting enough sleep makes it harder to focus.

I’m getting the occasional tension headache. I think this is because I’m sitting still more than I used to and tension is building up in my muscles (especially around my eyes).

Work flows a lot more smoothly and I’m able to work on detail-oriented tasks well into the afternoon – even at the end of the week!

I told myself I would try forming a habit, but getting up early has been… difficult. Partially because going to be early enough is difficult.

NIR Application, Week 3


3 minutes, every day


Daily application has reduced fatigue between doses. This seems to be a pretty good dosage for me.

The results are phenomenal, I’m able to focus on fine-grained detail from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. Instead of my days being defined by inability to focus and mental fatigue, I’m able to focus on, hold on to, and interact with detailed information all day.

I can actually track a whole conversation with more than one person. I didn’t realize how hard it was to keep spoken information in my head until I was able to actually listen fully. I can even engage in a conversation with 2 or more people in it!

I’ve noticed my carbohydrate cravings (any carb will do) have decreased by more than half.

I’ve lost almost 5 pounds over the last two weeks because I’m not binging on carbs three nights of the week. The weight loss may also be occurring because I set my caloric intake goal to 1600 kcals a day. I noticed that when I had it at 1900 I would over-run by about 300 to 500 kcals a day, so I’m trying the reduction. I think my success is mostly due to a greater ability to say no to cravings when they occur. I also am able to attach the decision to not eat something to some future goal that isn’t immediately tangible (visible abs?).

NIR Application, Week 5+


5-6 minutes a day, missed some days last week.


It seems that NIR can mitigate some of the ‘chicken-with-no-head’ craziness that can come with highly stressful situations.

Missing a dose means a bad day trying to focus. This may just be more awareness of the differences on my part.