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Light Therapy For Dsps/circadian Rhythm Dysfunction


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Hello everyone,

Several weeks ago in my introduction thread, I was asked to share my experience after using a blue light box I had recently purchased to help regulate my circadian rhythm. Reen and Sarah4 were initially interested, but I'm starting a new thread in case this can help someone who missed the previous posts. Last summer I had been diagnosed with sleep apnea(sucessfully treated with APAP) and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), and since light savings change, I'd been struggling with getting to bed before 4 am (even with sleep aids) and awakening before 2 pm.

Before purchasing my unit, I was skeptical, but am now a believer. :D I have been using my blue light box faithfully for several weeks and am pleasantly surprised that I am now able to get to bed before midnight and awaken before 10 am. I use it on 50 percent intensity for 20 minutes every morning within an hour or two of awakening. The well-publicized theory is that light in the morning stimulates melatonin hormone production in the evening and can help "reset" the triggers for sleep and awake states in those with circadian rhythm disorders. This technology is also used to treat SAD/winter blues.

I am still taking generic Ambien, but for over a week, have been able to fall asleep without melatonin or my sleep herbal capsule. Soon, I plan to try falling asleep without any sleep aid, which would be HUGE for me.

I am interested if anyone else has tried light therapy (blue light or older units) and if it worked for them. I look forward to and thank you for your response.

Lyn

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I have DSPS too. I tried the lightbox therapy four years ago and really screwed myself up. My doc timed my true circadian rhythm incorrectly and had me use it too early, reinforcing my phase delay. It works both ways! The resulting circadian mess caused my POTS to go out of control, resulting in a crash that took years to pull out of. To his credit, my doc stuck with me and eventually we found out that I am only "shiftable" to a point and beyond that point it won't move any further.

I am glad that it helped you, I wish it had helped me.

Just a caution: don't over-expose yourself, or you could end up with panic attacks. Once you have moved your rhythm back, use a maintenance dose and don't over-sleep.

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Firewatcher, thanks for your reply. I am sorry to hear that your experiences with the lightbox made your symptoms worse. I can relate to worsening symptoms with a messed up circadian rhythm, and it has taken over a year so far to sort through those issues. My autonomic neurologist emphatically recommended we focus on my sleep first, stating that without proper sleep, we won't be able to rebalance my nervous system.

I should have pointed out earlier that my sleep neurologist cautioned me that patients can end up with a non-24 hour circadian rhythm as a complication to altering the delayed rhythm, which can be way worse than what I have now. Before using the box, I could advance my rhythm, but couldn't keep it there.

Would you mind sharing how you used the lightbox (what type of lightbox, intensity, how long and when you used it), if you used it in conjunction with chromotherapy (advancing or delaying bedtimes to alter circadian rhythm) and if you were using any meds or supplements at that time? I would appreciate any details you share. I certainly don't want to make my symptoms worse. Thanks again, Lyn

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Lyn,

I have an Apollo Go-light. I was on Rozerem at the time and sleep restriction: limiting my time in bed to 6 1/2 hours and using the light box at full strength upon waking at 6:30 am. What we did not know at the time is that my natural nadir was at 7:30-8:00am, so by using the light box immediately BEFORE nadir, it was emphasizing my circadian delay instead of backing it up. I thought that this was something that had to be pushed through and continued until I was severely sleep deprived and physically and mentally unstable. What few sleep doctors understand is that something as simple as that high intensity blue light is acting directly on the hypothalamus, the master gland and junction of the nervous system and the endocrine system. By pushing too hard, I messed myself up and am still suffering for it four years later. I am one of the few DSPS patients with a set nadir, it won't budge any further than it has already and one weekend of sleeping in will undo any advances that were made. This is genetic for my family, my son has it too.

I have improved my sleep, but mornings still hurt badly. I use a beta blocker immediately upon waking, and my sleep doc says that it abolishes any natural melatonin in my system. At night, I use 1.5mg melatonin an hour before bed with .125mg Klonopin. I do not wear sunglasses before noon and try to get full, natural sun exposure in the morning. After noon, I wear very dark sunglasses with "blue-blockers" and use very little artificial light past dusk. Summer just kills me; the earlier sunrise hits too early and reinforces the delay, so I am more of an insomniac now. Poor sleep really ramps up my sympathetic NS and makes it hard to relax. By the end of summer, I'm usually an exhausted mess.

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Thanks Firewatcher for your details in your response. When first diagnosed with DSPS, I did find really interesting websites on the use of colored sunglasses which promted me to wear dark glasses at night and stay away from electronics several hours before trying to get to sleep. It did help me when I was SO sensitive to light. Years before I was diagnosed I also wore tinted transitions lensed glasses (no prescription, because fluorescent lights would set off a host of wierd neuro symptoms including migraines.

Sleep is so important to keeping my symptoms at bay, as well. Thanks for sharing.

Lyn

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