A reader asks:
I have suffered from mild to moderate Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for years. It usually begins in late November. In the last two months, I have also been experiencing persistent insomnia. To my surprise and delight, I found from this forum that light therapy can be used to treat both conditions. I purchased the light box recommended on your website and have been using it for a week. I begin the therapy at 6:15 AM, as recommended by your Morningness-Eveningness questionnaire, and continue for 30 minutes. I am careful to have the light positioned correctly at a distance of 12 inches from my eyes. So far, I have not experienced any improvement in my sleep pattern. Should I lengthen the exposure time? Give it another week or so at the same setting? Add evening exposure? I am desperate for some relief from this insomnia. Thank you for any advice you can give me.
One thing we cannot do in this forum is offer personal guidance on a case-by-case basis. Your condition requires direct clinical evaluation, supervision, or monitoring that takes individual needs into account. Here, we can point out general factors that apply broadly.
In your case, it is not clear which of several kinds of insomnia you may be experiencing. From what you write, the problem is distinct from your SAD episode, since you are writing more than a month before “late November.” Morning light therapy is specifically helpful for people who have difficulty falling asleep at a desired hour but who then sleep soundly, possibly with difficulty awakening the next morning. Such “initial insomnia” is a common problem when a person’s circadian (biological) clock is not in sync with a daily schedule of activity and rest. If that’s your situation, you might try longer exposure sessions as a next step.
However, difficulty falling asleep can be traced to other causes. It could be a sign of stress and anxiety, or a symptom of a medical condition unrelated to the circadian clock. In such instances, light therapy may not be right for you.