Curing Insomnia, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and Shift Work Disorder with Natural Light Therapy
What are Circadian Disorders?
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is a common circadian disorder in which your sleeping schedule gets pushed back further and further into the night. DSPS results in frustration, insomnia, and eventually serious health and social problems, as your schedule becomes more and more out of line with the waking world. Shift Work Sleep Disorder is a similar circadian disorder which results from being exposed to bright lights late at night. Luckily, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and Shift Work Disorder are both caused by (and cured by) light exposure—something entirely within your control. Here are five easy steps to cure Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, Shift Work Disorder, or related chronic insomnia.
Step 1: Bright Morning Light
Sunlight contains the full spectrum of electromagnetic wavelengths, both visible and invisible. Visible blue wavelengths from morning sunlight trigger a reaction in our retinas, telling our bodies to wake up and switch from the sleep hormone melatonin to the daytime hormones and neurotransmitters cortisol and serotonin. Getting plenty of sunshine as soon as you wake up dramatically resets your circadian rhythm for the next 24 hours. If getting sunlight is inconvenient or impossible (due to seasonal changes), a dawn simulator or Seasonal Affective Disorder light has been proven to work just as well. These devices emit a high percentage of the bright blue wavelengths that tell your body it’s morning. Reviews of popular Dawn Simulator Lamps can be found here.
Step 2: Candle Therapy
Once the sun has set, you need to stay away from blue wavelengths of light, which will continue sending the “wake up” signals to your brain and preventing up to 99% of nighttime melatonin production. One very inexpensive trick is to use candles, which emit a much lower percentage of blue wavelengths than any modern lighting devices. While most modern fluorescent and LED lights range between 3000K and 4000K color temperature, candles burn at only 1000K (a much “warmer” and more relaxing color).
Step 3: Free Blue Shifting Apps
At 6500K, LCD computer and phone screens emit an even higher percentage of melatonin-blocking blue wavelengths than most light bulbs. You may have noticed that browsing the internet late at night can dramatically worsen your insomnia. Luckily, free apps like Twilight (for Android) and F.lux (for PC) can shift your computer screens, so that they emit a lower percentage of insomnia-causing blue wavelengths. While these apps are definitely an improvement, the maker of F.lux has admitted that it is simply not possible to remove all of the blue wavelengths from an LCD screen. F.lux can be downloaded for free at JustGetFlux.com
Blue Computer Screen Wavelengths Block Melatonin
Step 4: Amber lamps and Amber Book Lights
The best solution for eliminating blue wavelengths is the use of native amber LEDs, which emit only in the harmless amber spectrum of light. While relatively dim blue light (100 lux) has been proven to block 50% of melatonin production at night, even very bright amber light (800 lux) has been shown to allow undiminished melatonin production. Moreover, reading at night is among the top suggestions by cognitive behavioral sleep therapists, making reading a book by amber light perhaps the best choice for treating insomnia and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Amber Book lights can be found at SomniLight.com and LowBlueLights.com.
Native Amber LEDs Emit No Harmful Blue Wavelengths
Step 5: Blue-Blocking Amber Glasses
For various reasons, many people cannot switch to candles or amber lights at night, whether it’s because they work a night shift or spend their evenings programming on a computer screen. In these cases, the best option by far is to wear blue-blocking amber glasses, which filter out up to 99% of the blue wavelengths that cause insomnia and circadian disorders. In one study, late night computer users who suffered from both ADHD and insomnia were able to fall asleep an average of 43 minutes earlier when wearing amber glasses during late night computer use. In another study, shift workers who wore amber glasses at the end of their shift “were able to fall asleep, on average, 34 minutes faster, improved sleep efficacy by 4.56%, and reduced their sleep fragmentation by 4.22%” (Sasseville, 2009).Read reviews of blue-blocking glasses here.
And that’s it! Using these techniques, I was able to cure my own Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome in a matter of weeks. With careful management of your lighting conditions, you too, can correct your circadian disorder or chronic insomnia!
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