In the January 2012 issue of PARENTS magazine, an article by Betsy Stephens outlines the significant impacts that sleep disturbances have on children – much more serious ones than most parents probably appreciate. For example, according to a recent study from University of Virginia, children who lack adequate sleep consistently suffer a drop in IQ points that is equivalent to the effect of lead poisoning. According to Dr. Judith Owens, M.D. at Children’s National Medical Center, tired brains cause neurons to lose their ability to work- to form the connections needed to learn. Furthermore, there can be long-term cardiovascular and obesity effects from consistent lack of sleep in children.
A rare occurrence? Hardly – the number of young children considered at risk for these sleep problems is estimated to be more than 20-30%. There are now more than 40 accredited pediatric sleep centers nationally, but many parents do not seek medical help, because they think their child’s sleep issues are as much their problem as the child’s.
Pediatricians suggest a number of strategies for addressing your child’s sleep disturbance. One of the easiest first steps is to use a bedroom light that has a gradually fading light, which is nature’s way of engaging the body’s circadian rhythms to respond with sleep.
If you have seasonal affective disorder, other forms of depression, or a sleep disorder, pharmaceutical companies have a host of offerings for you. You can try to alleviate depression with Prozac, or Lexapro. You can try Ambien or Lunesta to get a better night’s sleep.
But these drugs have side effects. Prozac and Lexapro, for example, can cause insomnia. Ambien and Lunesta can cause daytime drowsiness, which kind of defeats the point of getting a good night’s sleep. Most of these powerful drugs can cause stomach upset, which isn’t surprising, since when you take a powerful drug in a pill you’re putting a potent chemical into your stomach. Avoiding this is just one of the dramatic advantages of light therapy.
Light therapy’s efficacy for seasonal affective disorder was first studied in 1981 at the National Institute for Mental Health of the National Institute of Health. In the ensuing decades, light therapy has been established by study after study as an effective treatment for depression and sleep disorders. BioBrite has a distinguished board of scientific advisors who guide our own research activities.
Light therapy is hard to categorize as alternative medicine, because western medicine has so definitively supported it. But like many “alternative” or “holistic” remedies, it’s essentially free of side effects. The only kind of addiction light therapy can create is an addiction to feeling great.
An interesting study in 2006 compared light therapy to Prozac for depressed patients. Researchers at the Mood Disorders Centre in Vancouver, Canada, found that light therapy was just as effective as Prozac but that people felt the effects more quickly. If you’re depressed, of course you want to feel better quickly. And BioBrite’s light therapy products tend to be less expensive than anti-depressants in the long term, so they really are an obvious choice.