Bipolar disorder is everywhere today.
Bipolar is especially common with younger people, but even with older people are seeing it more.
It’s the same with depression.
People used to be depressed occasionally, but now it seems like everyone’s depressed.
And everyone’s anxious.
And one wonders why it’s gotten so much worse than it used to be.
No one really knows just why it is.
In fact, there may be a lot of reasons for it — but what is the solution?
How can bipolar disorder and depression be treated?
Plenty of drug company studies have been conducted to show that this medicine or that one can control bipolar disorder.
And there are so many medications around for depression.
You know my issues with studies conducted with big Pharma’s money.
They have a huge stake in the results, so it’s harder to be certain of unbiased results.
And they provide these often biased studies to doctors to show them why their drug is the best choice.
Most commonly, doctors prescribe SSRIs.
But these come with side effects, and only drug company studies seem to support their use.
Now it seems like light can be a great solution to both bipolar disorder and depression!
This is fantastic news for patients suffering from these illnesses.
If you’ve been reading the newsletter for a while you’ll know that we’ve looked at a lot of very negative downsides of SSRI medications.
So it’s nice that there is an option here that does not involve drugs.
It means so many fewer side effects!
But how can light help with bipolar or depression disorders?
Let’s talk about bipolar first.
This is a HUGE study.
I had to cut off the names because they were so many.
Basically what the study says is that the less light you receive, the more likely you are to have bipolar disorder.
It’s that simple.
So here’s the basic finding.
The further north or south you go, the more there is a difference between daylight hours in summer, and daylight hours in winter.
The greater the difference between long days and short days where you live, the more likely you are to have bipolar problems.
They are much more common in Norway than they are in Ecuador.
Norway is far North of course, and getting very few daylight hours during the winter months.
And Ecuador’s near the equator where there is far less reduction in daylight hours during the winter.
But daylight hours aren’t the only contributing factor.
Things such as family history and other things influence if someone will have the disorder.
How important is family history?
A family history of bipolar is important.
But it only cuts the relationship in half between the daylight hours affect we just talked about.
So even a family history of bipolar or no bipolar still does not negate the fact that if you live in an area with many short days, you’re more likely to have bipolar problems.
What that means is that someone may have a family history of bipolar, but move toward the equator and never develop the disorder.
On the other hand, someone who does not have a family history of the disorder could end up diagnosed with the disorder after moving to a far north or far south location.
But if access to more daylight hours can outweigh family history, that may mean that you can fake out the disorder with light therapy.
In fact, blue light blocking may fix bipolar problems.
Here’s a case report that shows how this works.
A man was bipolar, and they had him wear blue blocker glasses during a short period every day.
And when he did, his bipolar symptoms got much better.
The unusually rapid decline in symptoms, accompanied by uniform sleep parameter changes toward markedly increased regularity, suggest that
blue-blockers might be targeting a central mechanism in the pathophysiology of mania that needs to be explored both in clinical research and in basic science.
Granted, a case report is a single subject study and not a large group study.
It doesn’t prove that the blue light blocking will help everyone.
But it’s pretty easy to test this out if it will work for you.
You can get blue blocker glasses yourself.
They don’t have to be crazy, specialized eye wear.
These are just yellow lens glasses, and they cost anywhere from a few dollars to maybe $200 for prescription glasses.
You can wear them for 30 minutes at night, and see how you feel.
A lot of people feel much better wearing these glasses at night.
It especially helps if they’re watching television or using their tablet or phone, because it blocks out blue light.
And blue light is very disturbing to the brain, yet it’s very common in our screens.
Now we know that this may actually help bipolar problems.
Here’s what you should do now.
Experiment with light therapy on your own and see what effect it has on your symptoms.
You may want to try a combination of more light, and blue blocker glasses at night.
The light that you use during the day can be a red light, or a good quality incandescent light.
You don’t want to expose yourself to fluorescent lights, as fluorescent lights have a lot of blue light in them.
Fluorescent lighting is common in offices and becoming more popular in homes.
Plus, people are nearly always looking at a television or computer screen of some sort (tablets and phones count, too).
This may actually be the reason why bipolar disorder is so much worse today.
And it also suggests why it may not be a good idea to use those twisty light bulbs that are supposedly energy-saving.
They are florescent lights after all.
It’s best to use incandescent lights.
The kind that in their infinite wisdom the European Union and the United States are trying to ban.
Blocking blue light during mania – markedly increased regularity of sleep and rapid improvement of symptoms: a case report
Efficacy of Bright Light Treatment, Fluoxetine, and the Combination in Patients With Nonseasonal Major Depressive Disorder - A Randomized Clinical Trial