The Rhythm Section (of life (in-tune))

Do I have one heckuva final article in our “Rhythm” series for you! It’s time to swirl around how someone enduring a mood disorder can manage circadian rhythm dysfunction.

If you’d like to have a peak at the first and second articles in the series, dealing with definitions and pathology, there are the links.

Well, before we get to strategies and techniques I’d like to place a few things on the table – sort of a very-mini-glossary…

  • Light is crucial to our circadian rhythm, so is darkness.
  • Our body and organs have numerous circadian rhythms. Here we’re dealing with our most important one – sleep/wake.
  • Issues of light and darkness are always issues of the secretion of melatonin.
  • Blue light waves make whatever appears to be blue – blue. And the most important association to us right now is the “blueness” of the sky – as in daytime and sunlight. No matter the hour, when we see blue light our brain’s thinking it’s time to rise and shine.
  • Work with your therapist and psychiatrist as you try some of these techniques, making sure to ask if you should only do so in his/her presence. This is especially relevant for those enduring rapid cycling mood.
  • An amazing website, upon which a lot of this is based, is Dr. Jim Phelps’ I learned of it upon reading his super book, Why am I still depressed? Recognizing and Managing the Ups and Downs of Bipolar II and Soft Bipolar Disorder, several years ago. I even emailed him a thank you and an atta’ boy; and in very short order he wrote me back.

Rather than categorizing the subject matter according to what’s helpful for bipolarity and depression, I decided to handle matters in very general terms of “darkness” and “lightness.” And the application of either will be up to you – and your research and consultations.

Darkness Management

  • Certainly management of exposure to light is important, but management of our intake of darkness may be even more so.
  • Do all we can to make sure the quality of darkness is good when it’s time for sleep. That may mean no nightlights (though you can find some that don’t emit blue light), a sleep mask to avoid early morning sunlight during the summer, and other considerations.
  • Stay away from jobs that require odd shifts, the overnight shift, and travel involving frequent time-zone changes.
  • Establish and maintain a regular sleep/awake schedule seven days a week.
  • No blue light (TV, computer) 1-2 hours before that regular bedtime of yours.
  • Get dimmers placed on the lights you typically use after 9 p.m. and begin toning them down around that time.

Lightness Management

  • This is not an exclusive for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and can certainly apply to most any depressive presentation.
  • Secure and maintain a consistent morning light rhythm.
  • Consider using a dawn simulator when sunrise is after wake-up time (yes, light goes through your eyelids).
  • Consider using a light box, some of which are now the size of your hand.

So there you have it – some excellent and proven techniques for those enduring mood disorders to manage circadian rhythm dysfunction. And I encourage you to conduct your own research and consultations regarding the idea-doors I’ve opened.

How ’bout it – have you tried any of these techniques? Perhaps others? If so, what’s worked well and what hasn’t? What other thoughts might you share?