Archive for the ‘Sleep’ Category

FREE: Live Lyme & Sleep Webinar (7/22/20)

https://rawlsmd.com/webinars/lyme-sleep/

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Lyme & Sleep with Dr. Bill Rawls

Wednesday, 7/22 at 8pm EDT (LIVE)

When you have Lyme disease, the pursuit of sleep can become your white whale: You know you need it to help your body heal, and yet sleep evades you each time your head hits the pillow — even when you’re bone-tired and doing everything right to bring on slumber.

Why is sleep dysfunction so common among Lyme patients, and what can you do to get the restorative rest your body needs to fire up its natural healing processes?

Join a live webinar with Dr. Bill Rawls, author of the bestselling book Unlocking Lyme, who knows firsthand what it’s like to live with chronic Lyme disease and related sleep issues. He’ll shed new light on how Lyme sabotages sleep on a cellular and hormonal level, and share natural ways to simultaneously support your recovery and cultivate much-needed sleep.

PLUS: Don’t miss an exclusive gift for webinar attendees, and have your questions ready for a LIVE Q&A on Lyme and chronic pain with Dr. Rawls.

Dr. Rawls will discuss:

  • Why sleep dysfunction is both a key component of Lyme disease and an obstacle to recovery
  • How it’s possible to feel completely exhausted at night and yet still struggle to sleep
  • Hidden sleep disruptors we encounter every day
  • The 6 key steps to reclaiming restorative rest
  • The best herbs and natural remedies that do the double duty of encouraging Lyme recovery and cultivating normal sleep 
  • Numerous insights during the live Q&A with Dr. Rawls

(To reserve your seat, click on top link)

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For more:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/12/18/5-tips-to-calm-a-restless-mind-before-going-to-sleep/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/04/20/a-remedy-for-lyme-related-insomnia/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/08/23/sleep-sweet-sleep/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/04/02/cant-sleep-18-plants-herbs-can-help/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overcome Lyme Brain – Causes & Solutions

https://rawlsmd.com/health-articles/how-to-overcome-lyme-brain-causes-and-solutions

How to Overcome Lyme Brain: Causes and Solutions | RawlsMD

How to Overcome Lyme Brain: Causes and Solutions

by Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
Posted 2/17/20

Forgetful. Zoned out. Unable to concentrate. These are just a few ways people describe the disconcerting constellation of neurological symptoms associated with chronic Lyme disease known as Lyme brain, a muddled mental feeling that impairs some degree of a person’s cognition.

Although the exact prevalence of the condition isn’t known, the majority of chronic Lyme patients will cycle through episodes of Lyme brain from time to time. It can be frustrating and debilitating. Missteps like showing up to a doctor’s appointment on the wrong day, forgetting to refill a prescription before it runs out, or desperately searching for your glasses only to discover they’ve been on top of your head all along can make you feel as though you’re losing your mind. Some people will even notice problems with word finding, reading comprehension, and writing.

Is there a way to stop it? Here, we look at some of the underlying causes of this neurological phenomenon, plus ways to help improve the distressing symptoms.

Cause #1: Untreated Infections

Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections like babesia, bartonella, and mycoplasmacontribute to metabolic and immune changes in the body because the microbes can be low-grade and persist for long periods of time. While no system of the body is off-limits, the central nervous system and the endocrine system are particularly vulnerable.

Germs in the blood. Leukocytes attack the virus. Immunity of the body. 3D illustration on medical research

“When pathogens invade the nervous system, white blood cells — immune cells like lymphocytes and plasmocytes — flood into the white matter of the brain and the spinal cord,” says Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of RawlsMD and Vital Plan. “This causes a cascade of inflammatory immune messengers, called cytokines, in cerebrospinal fluid.”

This influx of proinflammatory cytokines causes neuroinflammation in the brain, which can contribute to a range of neurological symptoms, including those associated with Lyme brain. Because most Lyme patients have a compromised immune system, the body struggles to keep the offending pathogens in check.

The outcome? You continue to experience a prolonged inflammatory response and resulting symptoms until you’re able to suppress the harmful, stealth infections.

Solution: Suppress Harmful Microbes and Support Brain Health

To improve brain function, you’ll have to address persistent, low-grade infections. There may be a time and a place for heroic therapies such as antibioticsgut microbiome, too.

wooden spoon with herbal supplement on top, leafs underneath

A more restorative approach to subdue harmful pathogens is using herbal therapy, which has a balancing effect on the microbiome and the various systems of the body. Plus, some herbs can safely pass into the brain.

Not sure where to begin? Dr. Rawls’ preferred herbs specifically for brain health include:

  1. Lion’s Mane: This mushroom contains compounds called erinacines and hericenones, which cross the blood-brain barrier. There, they support normal levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), a peptide produced by the body that’s essential to nerve cell growth, maintenance, and survival. When NGF levels are in a healthy range, you notice that you have improved mental clarity, focus, and memory.
  2. Cat’s Claw: Native to the Amazon, cat’s claw has a long history of traditional use for the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory conditions, and it’s well-known among Lyme disease patients. The herb supports immune function and helps balance the body’s microbiome.
  3. Bacopa: A traditional Indian herb, bacopa has been used to bring balance and calm to the nervous system for thousands of years.
  4. Ashwagandha: Native to India and Africa, ashwagandha is used for its ability to balance, energize, and rejuvenate. Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen that is particularly useful in balancing the HPA axis in the brain (the control center for hormone regulation), which leads to improved stress resistance, better sleep, and reduced brain fog.
  5. Ginkgo biloba: Ginkgo is one of the oldest living trees on earth. Current and traditional uses of the herb include enhancing blood flow, protecting brain and nerve functions, and supporting cognition.

Cause #2: Toxic Build-Up

As you treat Lyme disease, you’re likely to experience a Herherimer reaction (or herx). With the use of any antimicrobial (prescription or otherwise), a large number of bacteria die off, causing an inpouring of dead bacteria called endotoxins throughout the body. This forces the immune system’s inflammatory response into overdrive.

Bacterial die-off can also produce byproducts that are toxic to the nervous system (neurotoxic) like quinolinic acid, ammonia, and acetaldehyde, which can exacerbate cognitive symptoms like brain fog. These toxic byproducts can also come from a microbiome imbalance such as a small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) and candida overgrowth.

Solution: Augment Your Body’s Detoxification Efforts

Start with the antioxidants glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). These were shown to help to support the liver’s ability to detoxify, mitigate the neurocognitive symptoms of Lyme disease, and lessen the accumulation of toxins as a result of treatment in a 2018 article in the journal Healthcare.

Raw yucca starch on the wooden table - Manihot esculenta.

Additionally, supplementing with molybdenum and yucca root can be beneficial, too. Molybdenum is a trace mineral that is normally present in small amounts in the body, similar to magnesium, iron, or manganese. Though a molybdenum deficiency isn’t common, adding a small amount of molybdenum — prepared in microgram doses — may help to neutralize excess ammonia and acetaldehyde and curb Lyme brain.

Similarly, the herb yucca root can be used to decrease ammonia levels. Typically, yucca comes in a capsule or powder.

Cause #3: Poor Sleep

Stress, inflammation, and infections can all disrupt your sleep, which only serves to worsen the symptoms associated with Lyme brain. Indeed, some short and long-term consequences related to poor sleep that are reminiscent of Lyme brain include mood disorders, cognitive dysfunction, memory problems, and performance deficits, among others, according to a 2017 review in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep. Sleep dysfunction alone could be the cause of Lyme brain in certain individuals.

Although it’s easy to see how a lack of sleep could be a significant factor contributing to neurocognitive issues, knowing how to improve the situation is a whole different battle. Generally, it will take some trial and error to find the repertoire of tricks and sleep hacks that will be helpful to you, but practicing solid sleep hygiene is paramount to decreasing the symptoms of Lyme brain.

Solution: Implement Good Sleep Hygiene

woman asleep in her bed, night time, white sheets

Going back to the basics of sleep hygiene can help you get a better night’s rest. They include:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends.
  • Get exposure to sunlight. The majority of us spend a substantial part of our day indoors. But getting sunlight throughout the day, especially in the morning, can help to reset your circadian rhythm so you’re tired when you’re supposed to be.
  • Wind down at night. Many people with Lyme disease experience a tired-but-wired feeling when they try to go to bed — they’re utterly exhausted, but their bodies won’t calm down enough to let them drift off. If this describes you, try spending 10-15 minutes before your bedtime doing some gentle stretching to relieve muscle tension, reduce pain, and bring on the calm.
  • Turn off electronics by 9 PM. When you’re lying in bed wide-awake and waiting for sleep to come, it can be very tempting to pass the time by watching your favorite TV show or scrolling on your phone. But the blue light that’s emitted from electronic devices can disrupt the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. So, instead of helping you fall asleep, electronic devices may be contributing to wakefulness. If you must be on your computer or phone at bedtime, try blue-light-blocking devices such as filters or glasses to keep your exposure to a minimum.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable bed. If you notice that you feel stiff or have greater pain in the morning, that’s a clue that your mattress could be an obstacle to quality sleep, and it might be time to invest in a new one. Most mattress companies will offer financing options so that you don’t need to shell out the funds all at once if you don’t have them.

Cause #4: Exposure to Mold

About 50% of homes have experienced some amount of water damage and contain mold. When exposure to toxic mold is coupled with Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections, all of your symptoms can intensify, including the cognitive issues that accompany Lyme brain, such as:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Mood swings
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Forgetfulness

Solution: Locate and Clean Up Moisture and Mold

cleaning of room wall from mold with metal brush

To avoid further exacerbating your symptoms, you may need to consult with a professional to safely find and remediate sources of mold in your home — a good idea in general, since doing it yourself will ramp up your exposure. In the meantime, here are some things you can do on your own:

  1. Place a HEPA air purifier in the areas of your home where you spend the most time, especially your bedroom. Reducing your exposure to mold while you sleep may help you wake up feeling more alert and refreshed.
  2. Reduce your humidity levels to as low as possible — ideally, between 30% to 50%. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners can be useful tools to keep in check the humidity mold loves.
  3. Routinely inspect your heating and air conditioning systems for mold, and if necessary, have them cleaned.
  4. Consider eliminating rugs or carpet in rooms that are known to contain high levels of moisture, such as the bathroom or basement.
  5. Keep your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms well ventilated.
  6. If you have an attic, make sure the space is dry and doesn’t contain moisture.

There’s no doubt that Lyme brain can be a frightening and overwhelming symptom of Lyme disease, and many of the potential causes overlap with one another, which can make sorting things out a bit tricky. But begin to chip away at the causes as best you can. Over time, you’ll start to notice clearer thinking, improved memory, and better cognitive functioning. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you can recover!

Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.  You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.

REFERENCES
1. Bransfield RC. Neuropsychiatric Lyme Borreliosis: An Overview with a Focus on a Specialty Psychiatrist’s Clinical Practice. Healthcare. 2018 Sep; 6(3): 104. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6030104
2. Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
3. Horowitz RI, Freeman PR. Precision Medicine: The Role of the MSIDS Model in Defining, Diagnosing, and Treating Chronic Lyme Disease/Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome and Other Chronic Illness: Part 2. Healthcare. 2018 Dec; 6(4): 129. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6040129
4. Medic G, Wille M, Hemels MEH. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2017; 9: 151–161. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S134864
5. Overview of Minerals. Merck Manual website. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/disorders-of-nutrition/minerals/overview-of-minerals
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5 Tips to Calm a Restless Mind Before Going to Sleep

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-savvy-psychologist/201912/5-tips-calm-restless-mind-going-sleep?

5 Tips to Calm a Restless Mind Before Going to Sleep

If your mind won’t turn off at bedtime, use these tips to work with your brain.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

How did you sleep last night? We seem to ask ourselves this question daily, and when we do, it’s almost as if we’re taking note of our overall state of mind: How do I feel? Am I all there today?

And no wonder! It can be discouraging and frazzling when all we want is the soothing balm of sleep to heal the stress from our day, but infuriatingly, when we lie down to sleep, our brains just won’t shut off. Paradoxically, sometimes the more stressful our days are, the harder it is to quiet the brain for sleep at night…. (See link for full article)

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For more:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/08/23/sleep-sweet-sleep/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/04/02/cant-sleep-18-plants-herbs-can-help/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/05/05/ambien-other-sleep-aids-get-fdas-blackbox-label-its-strongest-warning/

 

 

 

 

Detoxing With Infrared Saunas

https://dariningelsnd.com/detoxing-infrared-saunas/

Toxins are everywhere. They are in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the fabric and products we wear on our skin and the food we eat. Over time, even the smallest amounts can build up, hindering the body’s natural detoxification process.

When detoxification pathways are impaired, there can be negative impacts on the immune system, skin, and channels of elimination.

Saunas have been around for many years. The process of heating your body’s temperature enhances metabolism and also creates a calorie burn, similar to exercise. Not only that, but bacteria and viruses do not do well in the heat so, “sweating it out” if you are sick can be beneficial to your health.

The process of sweating allows our body to detoxify naturally. When your internal temperature rises, this stimulates your sweat glands so you perspire.

Exercise, steam saunas and infrared saunas promote a great deal of sweating. However, infrared saunas are far superior than traditional steam saunas.

Infrared saunas penetrate further into the skin’s layers and facilitate detoxification at a much deeper level. It can aid in eliminating a significant amount of environmental toxins and heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic and cadmium.

Woman massaging leg in sauna

Other benefits of infrared sauna include:

  • Weight & body fat reduction
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Easing chronic pain
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Alleviating joint stiffness
  • Aiding in recovery of endurance exercise
  • Minimizing fatigue

Couple using sauna

A few things to consider while adding sauna therapy into your regimen:

Drink plenty of fluids and be sure to add minerals to your water. You will need these as you will sweat them out. You may also need to add sea salt to your foods, depending on your individual health condition.

Start off with 5-10 minutes of sauna therapy per session and work your way up until you reach no more than 30 minutes. It may take some time for your body to adjust to the heat.

Focus on foods that are alkalizing. When your body is alkalized, it is able to detoxify much more efficiently.

Be sure to get plenty of rest. Allow your body to recuperate. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Saunas are part of an integrative protocol for better health. Meditation, exercise and positive emotional well-being will only maximize the benefits you get from using infrared saunas.

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More on Detoxification:  https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/07/23/the-science-of-detoxification-how-to-boost-your-natural-detox-powers/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/04/18/sauna-for-prevention-of-cardiovascular-alzheimers-disease-for-detoxification/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/03/31/how-to-detox-naturally-for-healthy-aging/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2015/12/06/tips-for-newbies/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/01/26/lyme-herxheimer-reactions-dr-rawls/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/01/07/your-liver-is-your-detox-organ-heres-why-how-to-support-it/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/02/24/top-3-lyme-detox-myths-busted-dr-rawls/

https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/03/02/dmso-msm-for-lyme-msids/

 

 

How to Prevent & Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/12/05/how-to-prevent-treat-seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx

How to Prevent and Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Analysis by Dr. Joseph MercolaFact Checked

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically ramping up in the fall and winter months and disappearing come spring
  • Helpful treatments include optimizing your vitamin D and omega-3 levels, light therapy (including blue light exposure in the morning, but not later in the day), optimizing your sleep, the Emotional Freedom Techniques and exercise
  • Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light. Your melatonin level also rises and falls (inversely) with light and darkness
  • Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months
  • While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study

The loss of daylight hours during winter is a common cause of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that hits seasonally and lifts as spring and summer rolls back around.

The fact that SAD occurs when the days begin to darken and sunlight is at a minimum is not a coincidence. Your health and mood are intricately tied to exposure to sunlight. For example, your serotonin levels (the hormone typically associated with elevating your mood) rise when you’re exposed to bright light.

Your melatonin level also rises and falls — inversely — with light and darkness. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase, which is why you may feel tired when the sun starts to set, and in the heart of winter, this may be at as early as 3 p.m. if you live far from the equator. Light and darkness also control your biological clock, or circadian rhythm, which impacts hormones that regulate your appetite and metabolism.

As explained in the paper, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches,” published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment in 2015:1

“… SAD is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months. A subsyndromal type of SAD, or S-SAD, is commonly known as ‘winter blues.’ Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Symptoms center on sad mood and low energy. Those most at risk are female, are younger, live far from the equator, and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD … Typical treatment includes antidepressant medications, light therapy, vitamin D, and counselling.”

Considering the many health risks associated with antidepressants, and the fact that their efficacy is right on par with placebos, my recommendation is to avoid them if at all possible.

Aside from light therapy and vitamin D, other drug-free treatment options include optimizing your omega-3 level, exercise, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and normalizing your circadian rhythm, all of which will be reviewed here.

The Role of Vitamin D

As explained in the featured paper,2 vitamin D appears to play a role in the activity of serotonin, a mood-balancing hormone, and melatonin, a hormone that responds to light and dark.

People with SAD tend to have lower serotonin and higher melatonin levels, which can account for the fatigue, tiredness and depressed mood typically associated with this condition. According to the Depression Research and Treatment paper:3

“A systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression … During the winter months of November through February, those living about 33 degrees north or 30 degrees south of the equator are not able to synthesize vitamin D.

Many people with SAD and S-SAD have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D, and although no further studies have confirmed the findings, research investigating this association suggests that taking 100,000 IU daily may improve their symptoms.

Taking vitamin D before winter darkness sets in may help prevent symptoms of depression. Adverse reactions or intoxication is rare but could occur from doses of more than 50,000 IU per day.”

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and should be a top consideration when you’re looking for a solution to flagging mood and energy — especially if it occurs during fall and winter months.

Ideally, you’ll want to get your vitamin D level tested twice a year, in summer and winter, when your levels are highest and lowest. This will help you fine-tune your dosage over time. While regular sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D level, this isn’t possible in many areas during the winter, thus necessitating the use of oral supplements instead.

GrassrootsHealth has a helpful calculator that can help estimate the dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. The optimal level you’re looking for is between 60 and 80 ng/ml, and for all-around health, you’ll want to maintain this level year-round.

Omega-3 Fats Are Important Too

Another nutrient that can be helpful is marine-based omega-3. As noted in a 2009 review4 of three studies looking at the impact of omega-3 supplementation on patients with unipolar depression, childhood major depression and bipolar depression:

“Twelve bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms were treated with 1.5-2.0 g/day of EPA for up to 6 months. In the adult unipolar depression study, highly significant benefits were found by week 3 of EPA treatment compared with placebo.

In the child study, an analysis … showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on each of the three rating scales. In the bipolar depression study, 8 of the 10 patients who completed at least one month of follow-up achieved a 50% or greater reduction in Hamilton depression scores within one month.”

In another study5 published that same year, people with lower blood levels of omega-3s were found to be more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels demonstrated the opposite emotional states.

A more recent review,6 published in 2015, pointed out that “Cell signaling and structure of the cell membrane are changed by omega-3-fatty acids, which demonstrates that an omega-3-fatty acid can act as an antidepressant.”

Importantly, this paper also points to research showing that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is an important factor that can influence your depression risk. People with severe symptoms of depression have been found to have low concentrations of omega-3 in conjunction with considerably higher concentrations of omega-6.

You can learn more about the importance of this ratio in “Getting Your Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio Right Is Essential For Optimal Health.” The key, really, to normalizing this ratio is to increase your omega-3 intake while simultaneously lowering your omega-6 consumption. This means you’ll need to ditch processed and fried foods, as they’re typically loaded with omega-6-rich vegetable oils.

Get Tested Today

GrassrootsHealth, which is conducting consumer-sponsored research into both vitamin D and omega-3, is one of your most cost-effective alternatives when it comes to testing.

Their vitamin D testing kit enrolls you into the GrassrootsHealth D*Action project, where your anonymized data will help researchers to provide accurate data about the vitamin D status in the population, the level at which disease prevention is obtained, and guidance on dosing to achieve optimal levels.

Their vitamin D, magnesium and omega-3 test kit is another option that will allow you to check the status of several vital nutrients at once. Each kit contains instructions for how to collect your blood sample. You then mail in your sample and fill out a quick online health questionnaire through GrassrootsHealth. A link to your test results will be emailed to you about a week after your blood samples have been received.

Light Therapy Is More Effective Than Antidepressants

Light therapy,7 using full-spectrum nonfluorescent lighting that has blue light to artificially mimic sunlight, is among the most effective treatment options for SAD. You want to avoid fluorescents as they emit large amounts of dirty electricity. Ideally, have the light exposure in the morning, well after sunrise. As noted in the Depression Research and Treatment paper:8

“Knowing the difference decreased daylight can make in triggering SAD and S-SAD, approaches seeking to replace the diminished sunshine using bright artificial light, particularly in the morning, have consistently showed promise …

Light boxes can be purchased that emit full spectrum light similar in composition to sunlight. Symptoms of SAD and S-SAD may be relieved by sitting in front of a light box first thing in the morning, from the early fall until spring …

Typically, light boxes filter out ultraviolet rays and require 20–60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white… light daily during fall and winter.

This is about 20 times as great as ordinary indoor lighting … Light therapy should not be used in conjunction with photosensitizing medications such as lithium, melatonin, phenothiazine antipsychotics, and certain antibiotics.”

While light therapy can take up to four weeks before you notice an improvement, it was shown to be more effective than antidepressants for moderate to severe depression in a 2015 study.9,10 In it, the researchers evaluated the effectiveness of light therapy, alone and in conjunction with the antidepressant fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac).

The eight-week trial included 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The participants were divided into four groups, receiving:

  • 30 minutes of light therapy per day upon waking, using a 10,000 lux Carex brand day-light device, classic model, plus a placebo pill
  • Prozac (20 mg/day) plus a deactivated ion generator serving as a placebo light device
  • Light therapy plus Prozac
  • Placebo light device plus placebo pill (control group)

In conclusion, the study found that the combination of light therapy and Prozac was the most effective — but light therapy-only came in at a close second, followed by placebo. In other words, the drug treatment was the least effective of all, including placebo.

The mean changes in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale from baseline to the eight-week end point was 16.9 for the combination therapy (active light- and drug therapy), and 13.4 for light therapy alone.

Blue Light During Daytime Hours May Improve Your Mood

In addition to the bright white light used in light therapy, blue light has also been shown to be useful. According to a 2010 study,11 blue light appears to play a key role in your brain’s ability to process emotions, and its results suggest that spending more time in blue-enriched light could help prevent SAD.

Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter. Because of this, the researchers suggested that adding blue light to indoor lighting, as opposed to the standard yellow lights typically used, may help boost mood and productivity year-round, and especially during the winter.

Keep in mind, however, that blue light after sunset or before sunrise should be avoided, as it can disrupt your circadian rhythm. In fact, one of the reasons for insomnia and poor sleep is related to excessive exposure to blue light-emitting technologies such as TV and computer screens, especially in the evening.

The blue light depresses melatonin production, thereby preventing you from feeling sleepy. So, to be clear, you only want to expose yourself to blue light in the morning, and possibly afternoon, but not in the evening.

In “How the Cycles of Light and Darkness Affect Your Health and Well-Being,” researcher Dan Pardi explains the peculiar effect blue light has on your brain, which sheds further light on why it’s so important to expose yourself to blue light during daytime hours only, and why you need to avoid it at night:

“[R]ods and cones in the eye… are specialized cells that can transduce a photo signal into a nerve signal… In the mid-90s, a different type of cell was discovered… [called] intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells (ipRGC).

It does the same thing as rods and cones: it transduced light to a nerve signal. But instead of the signal going to your visual cortex, it goes to your master clock. Those cells are most responsive to blue light. If you can block blue light, you can actually create something called circadian darkness or virtual darkness.

What that means is that you can see, but your brain doesn’t think that it’s daytime; your brain thinks that it’s in darkness. That is actually a practical solution for living with artificial light in our modern world…

With more awareness, future digital devices will adjust lighting in the evening to automatically dim and emit amber/red light [instead of blue]. This is much better for healthy circadian rhythms and sleep quality.”

Address Insomnia

As you can tell by Pardi’s explanation above, the blue light issue is closely related to your sleep quality and circadian rhythm maintenance, and this too is an important component of mental health.

Historically, humans went to sleep shortly after sunset and woke up when the sun rose. Straying too far from this biological pattern will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body, which can affect both your mood and your health. Indeed, the link between depression and lack of sleep is well established, and sleep disturbance is one of the telltale signs of depression.12

Sleep therapy has also been shown to significantly improve depression. While there are individual differences, as a general rule, you’ll want to aim for about eight hours of sleep per night.

For many, this will require going to bed earlier, which can be difficult if you’ve been watching TV or using electronics beforehand, as the blue light from the screen suppresses your melatonin production.

So, an important part of the solution is to avoid screen-time for a couple of hours before bed. Alternatives to not watching TV or using electronics is to install a blue light modulating software such as Iris,13 or using blue-blocking glasses.

Just make sure you don’t wear blue blocking glasses during the daytime, which is when you need the blue light exposure. Also, make sure the glasses filter out light between 460 to 490 nanometers (nm), which is the range of blue light that most effectively reduces melatonin. You can easily tell this by looking at a blue light and if it doesn’t disappear with the glasses, it is not blocking that frequency.

Exercise Helps Prevent Depression

Like sleep, exercise can impact your risk of depression. Even a minimal amount of exercise may be enough to combat depression in some people — as little as one hour a week could prevent 12% of future cases of depression, according to one study.14

Participants were followed for 11 years in this study, during which time it was revealed that people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for one hour a week, regardless of intensity, were less likely to become depressed. On the flipside, those who didn’t exercise were 44% more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.

Exercise benefits your brain and mood via multiple mechanisms, including creating new, excitable neurons along with new neurons designed to release the GABA neurotransmitter, which inhibits excessive neuronal firing, helping to induce a natural state of calm15 — similar to the way anti-anxiety drugs work, except that the mood-boosting benefits of exercise occur both immediately after a workout and on in the long term.

Exercise also boosts levels of potent brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. What’s more, anandamide levels are known to increase during and following exercise.16 Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid produced in your brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It can also be activated with CBD products.

Tap for Symptoms of Depression

Last but not least, EFT, a form of psychological acupressure, is a noninvasive way that can help treat symptoms of depression, whether related to seasonal light differences or not.

Some people avoid energy psychology, believing it’s an alternative form of New Age spirituality. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is merely an advanced tool that can effectively address some of the psychological short circuiting that occurs in emotional illnesses.

It is not associated with any religion or spiritual outlook at all, but merely an effective resource you can use with whatever spiritual belief you have. In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how you can use EFT to relieve your symptoms.

It’s the Season To Be Glad, Not SAD

Since SAD is triggered by the loss of light, it makes sense that light therapy is among the most effective treatments. Vitamin D and/or omega-3 deficiency, as well as lack of sleep and exercise, can also play a significant role, so addressing these basic lifestyle factors could also be what you need to avoid the winter blues.

In closing, it may be worth noting that it’s natural for your body to want to slow down somewhat in the wintertime. While this can be difficult when your work and personal life dictate otherwise, allowing yourself to slow down a bit and surrender to the overwinter process may ultimately help you to respect your body’s circadian rhythm, and recharge.

That said, this doesn’t mean you should plant yourself on the couch for the winter and not venture outdoors. On the contrary, staying active and spending time outdoors during the day are among the best “cures” for SAD.

– Sources and References