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Author Topic: Light Therapy
andi330
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Ok, so has anyone here used this and did it work well? Here's the reason that I ask.

I am having serious issues waking up in the morning and with general tiredness in the mid afternoon. I work nights, which means my exposure to daylight is minimal, and while I have had occasional problems in the past, they've generally cleared up fairly quickly on their own. Recently though, I made an additional change which may be compounding the issue. I transferred in my job to a building which has no external windows anywhere in the working area. In my previous building we were in a company owned building with windows around the entire outer wall, letting at least some natural light into the building. This center is in the backside of a mall, primarily in the area where storage units would be for the various stores, and the only (extremely tinted) windows are in a break area, to which I have limited exposure during daylight hours.

None of my other habits have changed. The time I go to sleep and the time I set my alarm for are the same. However, I am struggling to wake up earlier than 11 a.m. Since I have to be at work at 12:30, this is inconvenient at best. It has been suggested that a dawn simulation device, and possibly a blue therapy light for 15-30 minutes a day in the early morning would help. However, the lights are expensive, and not covered by either my insurance company or my reimbursement account, so they will have to be paid for out of pocket.

Anyone here who has used this willing to share? Did it help or not? And did you notice any side effects (aside from being more awake)?

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Tatiana
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I think that could definitely be the problem. I've never tried light therapy because I want to be sure the lights are full spectrum, and nobody ever shows me an actual spectrum of the bulbs. Also, charging $200 or something for what is basically a lamp is outrageous.

But I believe in it, I've read books that show studies that explain exactly why it works. (The Timing of Biological Clocks was a good one.) So I would totally recommend you do this, particularly if you have to work nights. Also, if you find a good reasonably priced system that has genuine full-spectrum lighting, please link to it here. I'd like to get one myself.

When I realized I am sometimes affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, I thought back to all the jobs I'd had in my life, and realized that the amount I loved or hated each job correlated exactly with the amount of natural light I got in my optic nerve while working that job. Seriously. All the other things that I thought mattered seemed to be secondary. The number one highest correlated (perfectly) factor in job satisfaction for me was the amount of natural light I was getting while I worked there. I was pretty surprised by that.

My absolute worst job ever was when I worked in a building with no windows. Another job I had that had almost no windows was during a time that I was running outdoors after work 3 to 5 nights a week while it was still light. I'd had terrible insomnia a whole lot during my adult life, and it got much worse when my bedroom windows didn't let in much light. I was totally and completely well from it during the whole time I lived in this one house in which the head of my bed was right below a big south-facing window.

Light can make a huge difference in fixing depression and insomnia. Our eyes compensate so we don't really notice it so much but the amount of light reflected by black ink on a page outdoors is more than is reflected by the white page inside. Even on a cloudy day, if you're outside during the daytime for at least an hour, your brain is going to be getting a lot more of the chemicals it needs to keep you healthy and sane.

So definitely try it and let us know how it works for you. I wish I could tell you specific experiences but I can't. Hopefully someone else will.

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Samprimary
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SAD could be a pretty significant cause but other causes could mean that your issues could be remedied in ways that are easier to incorporate into daily rituals, and/or increase the effectiveness of SAD therapy. Exa: melatonin supplements
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Tatiana
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I just went looking again, and bulbs sold as "full spectrum" mostly say they're balanced for color correction. This means that if viewed through a prism, they will have a few color emission bands like any fluorescent light, just the colors are adjusted to look more like daylight. That's not the same thing at all as a true full-spectrum like sunlight, and your brain will know the difference. Definitely find a product that can show you a spectrograph or else show you through a prism that you have something approximating a true full spectrum across the visible wavelengths and not just two or three emission lines in different colors that are balanced to make the color of the resulting light approximate daylight.
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Mike
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I'm curious, how would your brain know the difference? Aside from placebo effects, I mean.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike:
I'm curious, how would your brain know the difference? Aside from placebo effects, I mean.

Unless you are a tetrachromate, your brain won't know the difference. Your eyes are 3 channel detectors, they don't detect full spectrum.
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The Rabbit
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That's perhaps too simplistic. There are at least 85 different variants in the gene that codes for green/yellow light. For every trichromate (all males and ~90% of women), it would be possible using only 3 wavelengths to create a light source that was indistinguishable from natural light. However, no single light source will work for every trichromate because of the variability in our color sensors.

Tatiana, Are any of your brothers, your father or your maternal grandfather colorblind? If so, you are very likely a tetrachromate.

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AvidReader
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I haven't tried light therapy, andi, but my doctor put me on Vitamin D supplements. Also, I've been dimming the lights and hour before bedtime and taking melatonin.

It's not helping me sleep all the way through the night, but I do think it's making my quality of sleep better. I don't need a glass of tea in the morning to get moving, anyway.

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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Tatiana:
I just went looking again, and bulbs sold as "full spectrum" mostly say they're balanced for color correction. This means that if viewed through a prism, they will have a few color emission bands like any fluorescent light, just the colors are adjusted to look more like daylight. That's not the same thing at all as a true full-spectrum like sunlight, and your brain will know the difference. Definitely find a product that can show you a spectrograph or else show you through a prism that you have something approximating a true full spectrum across the visible wavelengths and not just two or three emission lines in different colors that are balanced to make the color of the resulting light approximate daylight.

If you can see the light bulb on in the store, you can bring one of these:
http://www.amazon.com/Nasco-Diffraction-Grating-Slides/dp/B001DSGYEO

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Tatiana
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Rabbit, no colorblind male relatives that I know of. I don't know if I'm tetrachromate but it sounds cool so I hope I am. [Smile]

I just know that even bright fluorescent light bulbs don't make me happy like sunlight does. Very unscientific survey! [Smile]

My guess is that the closer to actual sunlight a light source can get, the better effect it will have on brains evolved for sunlight. But you're right that we may not be able to tell the difference. I'd love to do a scientific study comparing SAD effects for true full-spectrum bulbs, sunlight, color-corrected bulbs, and just plain old regular bulbs.

The difference could actually be in our skin, to tell the truth. They're realizing lately that almost everyone in the temperate zones is badly Vitamin D deficient. It could just be the extra Vitamin D your skin makes when you're out in sunlight. I'm not sure.

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Stephan
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Penn and Teller (not that they are always accurate) trashed light therapy in one of their episodes.

But, I don't know, before spending $200, have you considered.....talking to a doctor first?

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MidnightBlue
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How much sleep are you actually getting? I'm having a hard time reconciling the concepts of working nights and waking up at 11 am to be at work at 12:30. If you're working an eight hour shift that starts at 12:30 I wouldn't really consider that a night shift. If you're working multiple jobs and getting little sleep or on wildly shifting schedules, I would imagine that would be a larger part of the problem.
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