A reader asks:
My 16-year-old daughter is perpetually tired, even though she sleeps well and gets plenty of it. She goes to bed at 9 at night and gets up at 6 a.m., which is much more sleep than her peers get, and she is still tired–sometimes to the point of falling asleep in class. She struggles also with chronic colds/allergies/headaches that the doctor can’t seem to find a physiological basis or cure for. She can’t seem to manage any of the demanding extra curriculars her friends handle either, because when she’s tried them, she gets quickly fatigued and/or sick. Is there anything about using a light box that might help her?
The combination of physical symptoms and fatigue makes this sound like chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which can indeed be debilitating–for up to several years–before it resolves. There is a host of treatment approaches, but no definitive curing agent. You should begin with a work-up by a CFS specialist (check www.cfids.org). Light therapy has been very helpful for people with CFS who have trouble waking up in the morning, who feel depressed, and become too tired to go to school or work. It may be very useful as an adjunctive treatment in CFS, but it is not a first-line intervention for the disorder.