As I explained in Part 1 about caffeine in this blog series, living with the daily consequences of a sleep disorder is harsh. The sleep disorder causes chronic sleep deprivation as well as a host of cognitive and physical ailments. I also have a Circadian Rhythm Disorder, which makes things worse.
I use a variety of techniques to treat the daytime effects of sleep deprivation and reset my circadian rhythm. This blog discusses the ‘Light Therapy’, also known as ‘Phototherapy’ that I use every morning.
A circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock, runs on a 24-hour cycle, controlled by light and darkness. When this is out of sync, my physical and mental function is impacted. It can be treated with bright light, though, which helps my brain register that it is daytime.
I use a Litebook Elite for my light therapy. The lamps are also known as ‘light box’. I use it to expose my eyes to intense light for 30 minutes immediately after I wake up (45 minutes in the winter). Then again, 2 hours after I get up, for another 30 minutes.
The light from this box is 10,000 lux which is the equivalent of 10,000 burning candles, and it mimics outdoor light. The lamp sits to the side of me, at an angle so it isn’t shining
the light directly into my eyes, but it is still hitting the optic nerves.
The light therapy is predominantly to reset my body clock by activating the relevant hormones and chemical messengers that tell the brain it is time to wake up. The lamp also helps treat the daytime sleepiness resulting from the sleep deprivation by providing stimulation. It isn’t anywhere enough on its own, though, which is why I need to use several techniques at the same time to treat the sleep deprivation. (Which I will cover in separate blogs throughout this series.)
These bright light lamps are often called SAD lamps, as they are commonly used to treat SAD or the Winter Blues, but they are used to treat many other disorders too. If you are considering purchasing one of the lamps, I recommend you do some checking up first as not all lamps are the same quality or provide the same protection for your eyes. The SAD.org.uk has helped by compiling a list of recommended manufacturers whose products are supported by genuine medical research. The lamp I use has been discontinued now, but there are plenty on this list.
Light therapy comes with possible side effects and a warning for people suffering from bipolar disorder, as it can trigger a manic episode. I have been using the lamp for seven years, but I have never experienced any side effects. It is important to check with your doctor first if you have been considering using light therapy, though, particularly if you are taking medication. Some antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and St Johns Wart can increase your sensitivity to light, resulting in eye damage. If you already have eye damage or an eye condition, the light therapy could make the problem worse. Always consult your doctor first!
Most people can use light therapy safely. The medical recommended light boxes have filters that remove harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so there’s no risk of skin or eye damage by UV exposure, they also provide at least 10,000 lux which is the recommended strength.
I couldn’t get through the morning without light therapy; it does make a difference in resetting my body clock – one day at a time! I do feel confident in recommending light therapy for people who have a circadian rhythm disorder, or other relevant sleep disorders. I can’t stress strongly enough, though, to consult your doctor first. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.
Featured Image Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo