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I seem to make this exact same post every few months. - helen-louise
I seem to make this exact same post every few months.
I am sitting on a train on my way to eat dinner, and I thought I'd “catch up” with all the livejournal entries I've been writing in my head over the past few days. Unfortunately it seems that being on a train inhibits my ability to write about Difficult Things (TM), which rather negates the point of bringing the laptop. Hmm. Also, it seems that the “t” key is experiencing serious issues, in that I hit it and it only registers 50% of the time. I suspect crumbs in the keyboard, not that I ever eat over my laptop or use it in lieu of a plate *cough*...

I have been miserable for a good few weeks now, owing to the severe lack of daylight. This has not been helped by the fact my sleep patterns have completely inverted and I have been falling asleep around 7 am (!) and mostly unable to get out of bed before 5 pm (!!). The problem is that having Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, the usual techniques for restoring a normal sleep-wake cycle don't work.

Methods that work for normal people:
1) Go to bed early so you'll wake up early. Ahahahaaa! If I had the ability to fall asleep AT WILL, I wouldn't have a sleep disorder now, would I?

2) Set your alarm for the time you are supposed to get up, and get up then no matter how rotten you feel. Setting my alarm early wakes me up in that I stop being unconscious, but I won't be rested enough to get out of bed. If I somehow drag myself up anyway, then I'll be tired and irritable for the entire day, and start feeling sleepy earlier, as intended. However, this won't translate into falling asleep any earlier. I can go to bed absolutely exhausted and still be awake 4 hours later, until the time when my body has predetermined that it will fall asleep. Yay. If I try to do this for several days/nights running, then I end up severely underslept and my immune system crashes. Back when I used to try to work at normal hours, I would have a cold every couple of weeks.

3) Stay up all night and go to bed at a sensible time the next day. Doesn't work for me, because staying up for 18-24 hours means that I then have to sleep for 15-18 hours, and I end up on the same or worse messed-up cycle that I had before.

The only method that works for people with DSPS is chronotherapy, where you move your sleep-wake cycle forward, rather than backwards as in the methods above. Unfortunately, this means going through a bunch of *really* inconvenient and depressing days, with total phase reversal like getting up at 8 pm and going to bed at 9 am. I really don't want to be doing that, so I've spent the past couple of weeks trying method 2 plus occasional sleeping pills, even though I know it's unlikely to work. Gah.

Through application of SCIENCE to the problem, I've discovered that it's not just my sleep-wake cycle but other circadian rhythms that get messed up. The reason why I can't wake up too much earlier is because my body temperature is too low. Usually, it's spot on 37.0 °C while I'm awake, but “too early” it can be as low as 36.3 °C. Okay, that doesn't sound like much of a difference – but we are homiothermic and our body temperature does only vary within a degree or so. If I am ill and have a mild fever of only 37.5°C, my brain feels “fried” and it takes serious effort for me to think. Clearly my brain is highly sensitive to temperature changes.

I need to get a) a lamp so I can have the abnormally bright “blue” lightbulb above my eyes in the mornings without it also being the main light source in the bedroom (as it bothered EVERYONE else who came to the house while it was installed, and is way too stimulating for me at night time), and b) some yellow ski goggles (research has shown that people with DSPS and bipolar II may be oversensitive to blue light, so should wear yellow filters when watching TV or using a computer in the evenings to avoid the light keeping them awake). This requires a) motivation and b) going into a ski shop. I'm not sure how this is to be achieved, considering that motivation requires... oooh, getting enough sleep and hours of sunlight.

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Current Mood: tired tired

16 comments or Leave a comment
barakta From: barakta Date: 3rd January 2010 02:56 (UTC) (Link)
Could you order ski goggles on the Internet or is postal delivery a difficulty?

I like the idea of trying light fettling to see if that helps with your brain.

I have symoathy re the crap patterns and I don't have a sleep disorder just a slight/moderate inclination towards nocturnality...

And on that note, I am goingg to try and be asleep by 4am! nini.
jinian From: jinian Date: 3rd January 2010 04:43 (UTC) (Link)
Would Richard be willing to get you some goggles? They shouldn't have to be too closely fitted, as they're usually very adjustable.
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th January 2010 02:44 (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure Richard would be willing to do anything to make me better. The problem is that he has absolutely no free time. He has been working from home every day that was a weekend or public holiday, from work on the days that were normal work days, and even had to go into work one weekend day. He's had to give up almost all of his usual fun activities.

So I think internet shopping may be the answer, if I can find the spoons to do so.
judiff From: judiff Date: 3rd January 2010 11:21 (UTC) (Link)
i think blue light is evil.
But with the extremely blue light of extreme blueness making you all happy is it like a good idea to be cutting it out? Or is it like too much caffine for you? (you do seem to get a bi spacey with the BLoEB)
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th January 2010 02:47 (UTC) (Link)
The problem with having it as the main light in the room is that it's far too bright to use in the evening, when you're taking meds and making the bed comfortable and reading or playing a video game before sleep. That's why it really needs to be in a lamp, so that the main light in the room is a normal bulb.

Unfortunately buying of lamps requires spoons that I do not currently have. It's possible though that the bulb may fit in the one spare lamp I already have, but that requires Richard being free (see above comment to jinian) for carrying and furniture-rearranging.
judiff From: judiff Date: 7th January 2010 00:01 (UTC) (Link)
i do think it would be a very good idea to have the extremely blue light of extreme blueness in a lamp to make it less evil for everyone else but that isn't like what i was asking about. I was asking about if cutting out blue light by useing yellow lenses would or would not be a good idea for you in like "the light" of the extremely blue light of extreme blueness making you happy but all spacey ...
baratron From: baratron Date: 11th January 2010 20:02 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I see! Sorry, I was being dense.

Supposedly people with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and Bipolar II are differently sensitive to the light spectrum than "normal" people. Most people are able to wake up in the morning because of natural daylight, and get sleepy when it gets dark even sitting in a room with artificial light. This doesn't work for people with DSPS.

The idea is to use bright "blue" lights in the morning (or when you want the morning to be), natural light during the day, then dimmer "yellow" light in the evening, a few hours before you want to go to sleep. The "blue" light stimulates production of chemicals in the brain that wake you up, and absence of those frequencies of light is supposed to make other chemicals get produced to make you sleepy.

Different types of light also affect mood. Apparently, if you get the type of light right and have the correct periods of light and darkness for your brain, it may be possible to be happy and mentally stable without any mood stabilising drugs! I'm not sure that I want to try that, but certainly I'd like better functionality in the winter.
turkish_coffee From: turkish_coffee Date: 3rd January 2010 14:08 (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure if there's a specific blue light you need, but you might be able to invest in some retro Christmas / party / fairy lights with blue bulbs and hang them up?

It would create a dim glowing blue light, which might not actually be bothersome to others, and a string of old-style lights are actually a sufficient light source for medium-sized room.
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th January 2010 02:50 (UTC) (Link)
Hee! Not that kind of blue light. That's why I wrote "blue" in inverted commas. It's actually a super-bright "daylight" bulb, but whereas normal light bulbs glow yellowish when you look at them, this one appears totally white. Everyone except me complained that the light spectrum from it was too blue/cold and not yellow/warm enough.
turkish_coffee From: turkish_coffee Date: 5th January 2010 02:58 (UTC) (Link)

Honestly, on newer TVs that have "color" settings (warm, neutral or cool) I usually pick cool. Not sure why, I just like how it looks, I guess. It might just be that blue is my favorite color, though.

I know what you mean about yellow compared to white light. I've had the "pleasure" of comparing both. White shows colors so much nicer. I'm also convinced that florescent light is bad for the eyes (this is an unrelated rant).
ailbhe From: ailbhe Date: 3rd January 2010 22:47 (UTC) (Link)
I got a new laptop and almost immediately bought it a keyboard cover. I can't believe I never did this before. If you're not allergic to the stuff keyboard covers are made of, I recommend them wholeheartedly. This one has been, so far, *glitter* proof.

If you did the chronotherapy once and then were rigid about your sleep schedule thereafter, would that work or would you need to do it annually or quarterly or something anyway?
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th January 2010 02:55 (UTC) (Link)
Sadly, no. Of course, it depends on which sleep schedule I choose. If I try for "normality" (i.e. waking up around 8 am and going to sleep around midnight), I can make that last for about 10 days at best before I start shifting backwards. The problem is that my most awake time of day is the 10 pm to 2 am slot, so trying to go to bed at midnight is almost impossible.

If I go for a sensible range for my brain (waking up at noon and going to bed around 3 am), I can maintain that indefinitely until I get ill. Then I sleep for 12, 15 or 18 hours for a couple of days and my cycle gets messed up again. That's how things have got so bad now.
firecat From: firecat Date: 4th January 2010 00:08 (UTC) (Link)
I can relate to this, although I never have gone through the chronotherapy process.

I really like blue light. I set my monitor to be on the blue-white side. I wonder what that's about.
nitoda From: nitoda Date: 4th January 2010 08:59 (UTC) (Link)
We have spare ski goggles, but sadly, when I dug them out they do not have yellow lenses, but seem rather grey ... I'll ask Marjorie to check if there are any spare with yellow lenses as she and David will be packing for their ski break this week in any case. Ski goggles are not cheap and it would be good if you could try a pair out and see if they work without actually having to buy them!
baratron From: baratron Date: 5th January 2010 02:57 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for trying! The reason to go for ski goggles is that you can apparently get super-cheap ones for about £10 (!? - maybe that's just the price of the lenses), and they'll be good enough to see whether it's worth spending £150 on custom-made tinted glasses. Of course, I wouldn't actually want to be walking around in ski goggles every night that I go out somewhere!
brooksmoses From: brooksmoses Date: 8th January 2010 06:57 (UTC) (Link)
I remember trying an approximation of chronotherapy one time early in grad school, though I probably did it too quickly; I just kept going and the next day was back to what was passing for normal those days.

Much more recently, I've found the one useful pressure point to push to move my sleep schedule where I want it that actually works. If I eat breakfast -- something, ideally with protein but at least something with enough calories to be a small meal -- within about an hour of waking up in the morning, most mornings, my sleep schedule happily adjusts to waking up in the morning. If I don't, I drift to something around 11am or noon. Light in the mornings helps (I keep my northeast-facing window curtains open), but the food is key. This is no doubt related to the same linkage of circadian rhythms that you're noticing; adjusting my food schedule presumably moves something related to metabolism, and the sleep rhythm follows.

(I'm not saying this will work for you -- for one thing, I don't have DSPS, just a very-subclinical tendency in that direction. I'm just noting it because you might find it interesting.)

(Also, it's probably worth noting that by "waking up in the mornings" I mean 8:30am. Let's not be silly here about times that do not exist, like the ones posited to lie before 7:45am or so.)
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