It is mainly thanks to CET’s website that I have been self-treating with a light box for delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD) over the last six years. I can really see that it is a powerful treatment, far more effective than everything else I have tried–and I tried many, many things over the years, from diet alterations to sleeping tablets to Chinese medicine and much more. Although the light treatment works, I still find it difficult to stick to a “normal” schedule. A few times I have failed to force myself to get up to use the lights in the morning (especially on the weekend it takes a lot of willpower) and I’ve found that the consequences of just delaying the treatment even by an hour or so for one day are that it takes three or four days of using the lights correctly in order to get back on track. Are there any tips or tricks to help avoid this happening, or to help me resynchronize faster if it does happen? In your experience, do you find that long-term DSPD sufferers eventually “unlearn” these habits and find it easier over time to stick to a regular schedule, or will it always require as much willpower and self-discipline as it does for me.

This is a great, insightful contribution to our forum. Some thoughts in response: If you are finding it difficult to wake up on schedule, it’s a sign of that you have gained only partial effect. We want it to become easy to wake up at the target time. You might achieve this by increasing your light dose with higher lux (but please, not above 10,000 lux) or longer session duration. If the session gets as long as an hour, take a brief break in the middle for some stretching. Second idea: Short of using a dawn simulator, attach your bed lamp to an electronic appliance timer set for 15 minutes before wake-up, and then proceed to the bright light session. If you find the bedside light disturbing, stop using it. Third idea: Take a low-dose melatonin capsule (not more than 1 mg) in the evening 12 hours before the scheduled light session. This should reinforce the phase-shifting effect of morning light without making you sleepy immediately. Thus, you’ll go to sleep about four hours after taking the melatonin if you are an eight-hour sleeper. If the melatonin disturbs your sleep, stop using it. You are correct: once you slip later, you should not resume the lights at the target time, but rather edge earlier over several days from when you are waking up. Finally, during the four hours before bedtime, keep your room lights low-–just comfortable enough for reading, socializing and watching TV–and avoid exercise and stimulating work activities that can contribute to difficult sleep onset.

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