Blue Light Therapy for Narcolepsy
Having trouble dealing with daytime narcolepsy? I’ve been there as well. One of the most powerful treatments I’ve found for treating this sleeping disorder is using blue light therapy for narcolepsy by using artificial UV lights.
Believe it or not artificial light has an incredibly powerful effect on your sleep. So much so that just even shining a flashlight on the back of your knee while sleeping will affect the quality of your sleep. I use this knowledge to engineer the perfect morning and night environments to make sure my Narcolepsy is working with me and not against me.
Basic tactics behind my schedule:
- In the earliest hours of my day, I try to maximize my exposure to light as much as possible.
- I continue to use exposure to UV light & natural sunlight throughout the day.
- I try to avoid any backlit screens or exposure to artificial light 60 minutes prior to bed.
- I consistently aim to sleep between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. to optimize my daytime exposure to UV rays.
Summary of the science behind my approach:
- Exposure to light (artificial and natural) releases cortisol (the stress hormone) and suppresses melatonin
- Your body aligns with the rhythm of the sunrise and sunset
- The greater the Lux output, the stronger effect the light will have on you
- All light is not equal, the body responds better to light earlier in the morning
- Blue light therapy for narcolepsy (typically radiated from electronic devices) can have a profound effect on PWN
If you want to learn more about sleep I highly recommend this book:
Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success
I’m going to break down my personal schedule along with the tools I use related to “light therapy” to help ease the symptoms of my Narcolepsy. I try to adhere to this schedule at least 5 days a week (M-F) to get my body in a rhythm.
Every.Single.Morning. I use this alarm to wake up:
Out of any purchase I’ve made in the past 5 years that has been geared towards helping me with my narcolepsy, this Wake-Up Light has had the strongest impact. I used to struggle a lot with the screeching sounds of any standard alarm clock. I would be so frustrated and alarmed by it (no pun intended) I would automatically get up and shut it off in my half-awake stupor and return back to bed.
No matter how many different alarms I set, I could never remain out of bed once I turned them off.
In comes the Phillips Morning wake-up light to save the day.
I’m not saying every morning is wonderful, but the subtle mimicry of the sun makes it possible for me to get out of bed and stay out. I would highly recommend anyone with Narcolepsy who was trouble staying out of bed in the morning to try this Wake-up light.
Once I’m up and out of bed I immediately throw on every light in the room and use this UV light for blue light therapy for narcolepsy:
While preparing for my morning I make sure I get direct exposure from this light (It shines directly on my face) as a form of blue light therapy for narcolepsy. Besides a solid, workout I find the UV light to have one of the greatest impacts on my alertness. For me personally, it takes about 3-5 minutes to feel the effects of it.
*Sidenote: This is the kind of light doctors will prescribe to those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder*
To read more about the effect of UV light exposure you can check out these articles:
The next part of my day involving artificial light and its effect on my wakefulness happens at work. While working, I make sure to have this light shine on me:
The UV light helps to keep me alert and helps my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) at the same time. Seeing that I live in Portland, I’m fairly deficient in Vitamin D during the winter months.
SKY UV light (that I use in the morning) has a more profound effect on me because it’s much larger and more intense but this portable UV lamp still manages to have an effect on me.
Preparing for sleep
The important thing to remember here is that exposing your eyes to artificial light stimulates the production of cortisol and the suppression of melatonin. Which is the exact opposite of what you want while preparing for sleep.
So I make a serious effort to avoid all actives that use backlit screens (computers and cell phones) at least 60 minutes prior to going to sleep as well as keep the light usage in my apartment to a minimum.
At first, I had a HUGE problem finding activities to do before bedtime that didn’t involve a screen. I am a massive internet junkie and cutting out my time on the web seemed sacrilegious to me. But over the years I’ve learned to fall in love with other activities right before bed.
Here is a list of some activities I personally due prior to bedtime to avoid using backlit screens:
- Read (Preferably fiction, nonfiction tends to stimulate the analytical part of the brain which keeps me awake)
- Audio Books – Same idea as reading but just a different delivery device that isn’t reliant on using a light
- Meditate – I personally practice Vipassana
- Listen to Podcasts – Very similar to audiobooks but in this case, the majority of them are free.
In case I need to use my phone within that 90 minutes before sleep I make sure to adjust the settings on my iPhone which alters the color of light that gets emitted from the screen.
“Blue light” has a much higher Lux output than softer light like an orange or red light. So to change this I went to
Settings >Display & Brightness >Night Shift
Follow my screenshots below to change your settings:
I’m on the setting farthest to the right under “warmer”. I scheduled the time for the Night Shift during the hours 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. because I tend to get into bed around 9:30 p.m. and wake up at 5:00 a.m. on most days.
Hope this helps.
Please add any personal tips you have for dealing with your Narcolepsy in the comments below.
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