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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

I Just Bought A Litebook

If I don't stop sleeping all day I'm going to get fired from my job.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,

October 9, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

A Litebook is a type of light box, most often used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. I decided to try it because I think I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.

The symptoms certainly fit: I cannot get to sleep until very late at night, like five in the morning, and I have a great deal of difficulty getting out of bed, not even in the morning - not until the afternoon. I actually did better today in that I got up at three PM.

My chief hesitation with buying the Litebook at London Drugs in downtown Vancouver was that their price was $299, whereas the Litebook.com website offers it for $179. That's a huge difference, but I don't have room on my credit card. With the time it would take to mail in a payment and get a unit shipped, I might not have a job anymore:

My project manager finds it hard to understand why I wouldn't be able to get out of bed for the meeting my team has each morning at ten. But I do.

They had a display unit behind the counter at the drug store. I didn't think it looked so bright. I find it pretty challenging to pay so much for something I could make myself out of a light bulb and socket. But the manufacturer claims that it has the optimum wavelength, and it comes highly recommended.

When I got it home I set it up a foot from my face as the instructions recommend and turned it on. I was on the phone with Bonita at the time, and shouted "Shit that's bright!" and turned it right off.

Here is my plan for the morning:

I'm going to leave my coffee pot set up to brew a pot of coffee. I will have the Litebook set up on my table. When my alarm goes off, I will turn on my coffee pot then sit in front of the Litebook. I expect to be in a complete stupour. It's going to be pretty hard not to just go back to sleep.

I don't know how long I will need to sit in front of it, but they say one can tell as one suddenly feels better.

It's actually my experience that as stupefied as I feel when I first wake up, if I can somehow manage to hold on to consciousness long enough, I suddenly feel fine. Perhaps that is because I'm exposed to enough light.

It turns out there is some actual science behind how this works. There is a photoreceptor in our eyes that sends a hormonal signal to the pineal glad when its exposed to light. This photoreceptor doesn't "see" light the way the rods and cones do, instead it resets our circadian rhythm upon exposure to light and darkness. It also causes our pupils to dilate and contract.

The pineal gland is the source of our circadian rhythm. When we (or normal people anyway) are exposed to darkness, the pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy. When we're exposed to light, the melatonin production stops.

The other side of this is that I have been taking a melatonin tablet each night at ten, and going to bed at eleven. It does make me sleepy but strangely has not helped me actually get to sleep. I just lay there awake while feeling sleepy.

I will post a diary about my first day's experience with the Litebook tomorrow.

I am dismayed to have paid so much for a fancy light bulb, but if it turns out to work it will be a very small price to pay. I paid thousands of dollars to a sleep specialist back in Maine, but he seemed to know nothing whatsoever about circadian rhythm disorders.

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