A reader asks:
I have always been a “night person.” I have children now and I bear the responsibility of getting them off to school in the morning. I work nights as a nurse 7 p.m. – 7 a.m., 3-4 nights a week. My question is, can light therapy work for my mild depression? I am pregnant and have NO interest in exposing my child to antidepressants. Is it possible that I am just doomed to live with this, since I have a schedule that prevents me from going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day?
This is a vexing situation, which unfortunately is not that unusual. Light therapy may still help, but the combination of your intermittent night shift and need to sleep during the day, plus your pregnancy, offers no simple solution. With monitoring by your doctor, we would recommend first trying a steady midmorning treatment schedule. Following the 3 nights you work, wait till after completing the treatment before going to sleep. Another possibility is trying light treatment on awakening, but only on the 4 mornings you have slept a normal night. If at all possible, we suggest petitioning your hospital for a day shift throughout your pregnancy and for the first few months after the baby arrives.