Leveraging Daily Light Exposure to Help Narcolepsy Symptoms

People with the sleeping disorder narcolepsy can experience excessive, even overpowering, sleepiness at any time during the day. Their bodies have lost the ability to regulate their sleep/wake cycle. This is caused by the loss of production of a protein in the brain called hypocretin. 

According to narcolepsy coach Peter Conley, people with narcolepsy are highly susceptible to signals or triggers from their internal and external environment.

Help Narcolepsy Symptoms
  • Internal triggers consist of anything that alters hormone production, including certain types of food and feelings of stress.
  • External triggers can be any change in the environment, such as light exposure, time of day, or a social situation.

Mr. Conley advises that some of these signals can be used to help diminish symptoms of the sleep disorder. For example, you can control how you expose yourself to light to relieve symptoms, rather than exacerbate them.

The approach is a form of natural narcolepty treatment and involves optimizing natural and ultraviolet light exposure during periods of desired alertness, while reducing or omitting exposure when entering periods of rest. Here’s how you do it...

Track your sleep to get a baseline.

Begin collecting data over a number of weeks on how your personal sleep cycle works. This can be done manually or by using one of a number of sleep-tracking tools available, such as a:

  • Fitness watch with a built-in sleep tracker
  • Smart phone apps like Sleep Cycle or SleepScore
  • Activity-tracking device such as Oura Ring

Plan your sleep schedule.

Now that you have a baseline of sleep data, you are in the position to apply techniques that optimize your sleep and then measure their impact. Establish your sleep schedule by planning out the exact time of day you will be waking up, going to bed, and napping (if relevant) during the day.

Leverage sunlight during the day.

Consider a daily outside activity, such as walking or running, where you can expose yourself to sunlight, while stimulating cortisol production in your body to assist with your sleep/wake cycle.  

Even if you live in a cloudy or rainy place, this outside activity is benefical. Ultraviolet rays penetrate the clouds even on the cloudiest days. So it is still beneficial to be outside no matter the sunlight situation. Obviously, the sunnier the better, but you’ll still get exposure to natural ultraviolet rays when you are outside.

Use artificial light during the day.

In addition to natural sunlight exposure, using a light-therapy lamp each day can help narcolepsy symptoms.

Craft your sleeping environment

Our bodies and brains did not evolve to deal with house lights, equipment and device lights, and computer screens. Even the smallest emission of these lights impacts wakefulness.

If you’re not sleeping in a pitch-black room, you are hampering your ability to get the best possible night’s sleep. Therefore, make sure your bedroom is so dark that you cannot see your hand waving in front you.  

Cover all sources of light from within your room, including your alarm clock, smoke detector, and electronics - and especially devices with those small blue lights. Blue light produces the opposite hormonal effect you should be chasing when getting close to bedtime. The lights increase cortisol production and suppress melatonin production, which is important for sleep. Refrain from being around blue light for at least 60 minutes before bed, preferably 90 minutes. 

If you have outside light filtering through your windows, install blackout curtains in your bedroom.

Once you get the light out of your bedroom, it's time to optimize the temperature for sleep. For most people, that’s a cool 60 to 65 degrees. Others prefer their bedroom a little warmer, but typically it’s better to be on the cool side.

Lastly, remove all things from your bedroom that aren’t related to sleep or sex. This includes your television, phones and chargers, office work, and your computer.

Track results of your efforts.

Once you have implemented these actions to help narcolepsy symptoms, take another assessment of your sleep cycle to track changes and improvements. Collect data over the same number of weeks as you did initially. Then, review changes - and adjust your activities based on the findings.

Related Information - Help Narcolepsy Symptoms

What is Narcolepsy 
Causes of Narcolepsy 
Narcolepsy Symptoms

› Help Narcolepsy Symptoms

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