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Lighting the Way

Reader Phil left this comment on my earlier post Light and Dark, in response to Hank Roberts who’s been sharing valuable info, like a link to the Center for Environmental Therapeutics on light therapy and negative ions for depression. Phil’s comment:

This DESPERATELY needs to be more widely talked about, and tried. I followed Hank’s directions- and for the first time in 15 years, I am able to sleep without medication. Do you understand how astonishing that is?

What happened 15 years ago? I installed a compact fluorescent bulb as my bed/reading lamp. It’s unplugged now; currently using amber LEDs, which are plenty bright for reading.

My exact situation- for 15 years, I’d take diphenhydramine at bedtime- and have to read for 2-3 HOURS before I could drop off to sleep. Without the diphenhydramine- I’d wake up at 1 or 2; and be totally unable to get back to sleep. Devastating.

Literally- I am now UNABLE to keep my eyes open more than 15 minutes after getting into bed- with the amber LED’s. No matter how exciting the book. Hank. It’s changed my life.

Hank clarified further in another comment:

Winter depression (my issue, not my spouse’s) has long been treated with bright lights; Brainerd et al. (2001) found the receptor that controls melatonin and circadian timing is sensitive only to a narrow blue-green band. You _need_ that band for treating winter depression. E.g. the light from The farther blue (higher energy photons) may put some people at risk for eye damage. That’s a good reason _not_ to use bright _blue_ light for winter depression. Lots of info on that. [Note: it can also trigger mania in bipolar disorder.]

But blocking all the blue isn’t a good idea either! E.g. 2006 JOURNAL OF CATARACT AND REFRACTIVE SURGERY SYMPOSIUM … increase of alertness under blue light exposure… There’s a big spike of blue light in ordinary white fluorescent lights (see links in earlier posts to LEDMuseum spectra pages); that may be a problem for sleep. Some researchers recommend using no-blue lights for the late evening hours, e.g.

I’ve seen (can’t find at the moment!) other reports that it’s the ratio of blue to yellow that determines the suppression of the melatonin/circadian clock. As always – I’m just reading and pointing; I’m no expert, not qualified to give any advice beyond “this worked for me so far” — I encourage anyone looking into this to be careful, do your own reading (Google Scholar or a good reference librarian will help) and remember it’s an area where what’s known is changing fast.

Indeed it is, Hank, and thank you for keeping on top of it! Dr. Jim Phelps also maintains a page on the subject: Bipolar Disorder, Light, and Darkness: Treatment Implications.

Read my earlier posts with the many informative comments at Light and Dark, and Lighting. Feel free to share your experiences, too!

Lighting the Way

Sandra Kiume

Sandra Kiume is a mental health advocate. Along with contributing to World of Psychology, she blogs at Channel N about brain and behaviour videos, and is the founder of @unsuicide and Online Suicide Help. She lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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APA Reference
Kiume, S. (2018). Lighting the Way. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Apr 2007)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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