I was just reading about some alternative ways to treat bipolar disorder, specifically mania and came across an article that talked about darkness therapy. I decided to do some research and write a blog about it.
In 1996 there was a study that was started that eventually proved that it is helpful to ward off mania if a patient is in darkness from 8pm until 6am. When they can’t be in complete darkness, amber lenses or control clear lenses were used. It was proved that darkness is a mood stabilizer. (This study was completed in 2016)
In February of 2005 there was a study done that proved darkness “can be a useful add-on for the treatment of acute mania”.
In researching darkness therapy, a term that you are probably already familiar with kept coming up-biological clock. “The biological clock controls the timing of our body’s daily cycles including our sleep cycles and research has consistently shown is an imbalance in the biological clock in bipolar brains. This is why sleep cycle disturbances are so common in bipolar syndrome.”
The SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus ) is a part of the that hypothalamus gets signals about how much light there is. It is the main location of the biological clock. In 2001, a retinal photoreceptor was discovered that is sensitive to blue light. These receptors connect to the SCN of the hypothalamus, where the biological clock is.
Amber lenses can block blue wavelengths (the most potent portion) creating a form of physiologic darkness. “Because the timing and quantity of light and darkness both affect sleep, evening use of amber lenses to block blue light might affect sleep quality. Mood is also affected by light and sleep; therefore, mood might be affected by blue light blockade.”
Avoiding blue light is simple and has no side effects and is a free anti-manic treatment. It is something we can incorporate into our daily lives in order to live with bipolar disorder and control mania.
I tried to make this topic as easy as I could. For more in depth information, please read from the following sources. They include the studies that I mentioned.