A reader asks:
I’d like to try a dawn simulator because I want to get up at 6 a.m., and the sun isn’t up yet (and the alarm is horribly jarring). But I’ve also had symptoms of SAD for a long time, and am considering a light box. Is there any reason not to do both? Is there any way to effectively combine them–i.e., use a dawn simulator hooked up to a light box?
Good question. A paper that came out in the December 2006 American Journal of Psychiatry reports that naturalistic dawn simulation (as described on our website) produces a similar effect to post-awakening bright light therapy for treatment of SAD. The implication is that you probably don’t need to combine the two methods–either one can work on its own. We sometimes combine the two for additional effect when patients (a) are sleeping very late, into the afternoon, and need to adjust their internal clocks earlier by several hours, or (b) awaken successfully with the artificial dawn but feel they need an additional energy burst to jump start the day. You cannot connect a dawn simulation controller direct to a bright light box, because the fluorescent lighting system is incompatible with the dimming circuitry. Thus, if you are using both methods, you will need a separate incandescent bedside lamp with adequate projection toward your bed (as described on our website).