Five Weeks of Light Therapy

Introduction

I’ve been blogging over the last number of weeks about my experiences with light therapy. I now have six full weeks of data – one week demonstrating what was a typical pre-light therapy nap pattern and the other five post-light therapy nap pattern.

The aggregate data seems to indicate that the light therapy is having a significant, positive effect on my daytime wakefulness.

The Data

Weeks 0, 1, 2

Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps
4/13 1.75 1 6/8 1.5 1 6/15 1.5 2
4/14 2.25 2 6/9 0 0 6/16 .5 1
4/15 1 2 6/10 .5 1 6/17 1.5 1
4/16 1.5 2 6/11 .75 1 6/18 .5 1
4/17 2.25 2 6/12 1 1 6/19 2.5 1
4/18 3.5 3 6/13 .5 1 6/20 3 1
Total: 12.25 12 Total: 4.25 5 Total: 9.5 7

Weeks 3, 4, 5

Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps
6/21 .5 1 6/27 1 1 7/3 1.25 1
6/22 1 1 6/28 1 1 7/4 1.5 2
6/23 2 2 6/29 2 1 7/5 2 1
6/24 3 1 6/30 1 1 7/6 1 1
6/25 1.75 1 7/1 1.5 2 7/7 .75 2
6/26 1.5 1 7/2 .5 1 7/8 1 1
Total: 9.75 7 Total: 7 7 Total: 7.5 8

Weeks 6, 7, 8

Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps Date Hrs Naps
7/9 .5 2
7/10 2 1
7/11 0 0
7/12 .75 1
7/13 .5 1
7/14 0 0
Total 3.75 5

Analysis

There has been a sharp decline in hours spent napping from pre-light to post-light. Pre-light I had spent 12 hrs./wk., post-light it dropped to 4 hrs. but then quickly rose back up to 9.5 hrs. the second week of light therapy. Since then it has lowered and stabilized around 7-8 hrs./wk. though this past week it dropped again significantly to 3.75.

As far as number of naps go, this decreased significantly from 12 pre-light to 5 post-light and seems to have stabilized around 7-8 naps post-light, though this past week it dropped again to 5 naps.

Complications & Concerns

Overall, light therapy has caused me no issues. Sometimes it gets annoying having a warm light shining on one’s face, but this is really a minor nuisance…it isn’t that warm. Very rarely I’ll experience some minor discomfort with my eyes or a very mild headache, but I think these are caused by other factors (not enough fluid intake, medication side-effects) than the light therapy.

The one complication I am subjectively experiencing is a decrease in sleep during the night and a decrease in the continuity of sleep. Neither of these was good before light therapy, but subjectively, I feel like it is even worse now.

That said, I’m still more energetic during the day with less sleep than I was previously with subjectively more sleep and more naps. The only real reason the lack of sleep and lack of continuity concern me is because I have been aware for years that my self-control weakens significantly as my sleep debt increases…and I see this to be true now…particularly, I have to be more mindful of the words I speak b/c I have a tendency to speak more off-the-cuff.

I have also noticed that if I don’t do light therapy I experience significant daytime sleepiness and I usually nap for an hour or two or three. This is somewhat of a difficulty since for me a single hour in front of the light box is not enough…I probably spend 4-6 hrs. per day in front of the light box. Even if I nap, I put the light box in front of me so that it is shining on me as I sleep….

If I have responsibilities (which I do) which cannot be completed at my desk, this causes an interruption in my light therapy usage and it is on these occasions that I experience the additional napping and sleepiness.

Next Steps

At this juncture I am taking melatonin before bed and also have begun taking my prozac before bed. Neither has made a significant difference in my sleep continuity. I recently purchased delayed release melatonin which will release the melatonin into my system during the night, which I am hoping will rectify issues with sleep continuity.

I have also taken to moving my exercise earlier (in the past I oftentimes exercised from 9-11 pm) or not doing it at all if it gets too late…eventually, I’d like to move the exercise to the morning, but I am not prepared to do that yet.

I am also working to modify my schedule where possible to allow me to spend time with light therapy…it is not an issue to be taken away from light therapy for an hour, but I should avoid scheduling myself in such a way that I do not get several hours with it before noon.

Conclusion

I am very happy with the apparent help that light therapy has provided me. That said, I am aware that I may still be experiencing a placebo effect and also that my behavior may be changing (e.g. pushing harder to stay awake) and this may be causing the difference in napping rather than the light therapy itself…but whatever the cause, I am feeling good and am napping less, and apart from the sleep continuity and self-control challenges I find it to be entirely positive…and those negatives to be fairly minor.

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