The last thing you want to think about when you learn you’re pregnant is whether you might end up with postpartum depression. Unless you’ve experienced depression before in pregnancy or postpartum, chances are you’ll be tempted to avoid the topic. Don’t worry – thinking about it won’t cause it! Quite the contrary - as with many other situations you want to prevent, just a tiny amount of planning can greatly reduce the likelihood (and severity) of problems.
Just a few years ago an interesting fact about the eyes was discovered. It had been known for many years that exposing the eyes to light suppresses the very important sleep hormone, melatonin. The new discovery was that it’s principally the blue rays in ordinary white light that causes the melatonin suppression. By wearing glasses that block blue light or by using light bulbs that don’t produce blue light, the suppression of melatonin can be avoided.
Depression can occur in pregnancy, and many have found these glasses help alleviate it. When the baby arrives, moms are quite vulnerable to postpartum depression if they have chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause postpartum depression. It’s one of the most under-recognized factor contributing to this illness.
When you get up at night and turn on a light in order to take care of your baby, you also suppress your production of melatonin. Then, when you try to go back to bed and grab more sleep, you may find you can’t. About the time you’re finally able to fall asleep, your baby cries and you again turn on a light. Once more, this cuts off your supply of melatonin. In addition to being a frustrating cycle, this results in upsetting your internal clock.
The next night, even though you’re even more tired, you may find you can’t sleep. Your melatonin flow did not start at the normal time because your internal clock has been reset by the light exposure during the previous night. If this continues for a number of nights, your body doesn’t know what time of day or night it is. You produce less and less melatonin, you sleep very little and soon may fall into a postpartum depression. If you already have postpartum depression, the sleep deprivation will make it worse. Disruption of the internal clock is well known to psychiatrists as a cause for depression.
To completely avoid this problem of upsetting the internal clock and losing melatonin, all that is required, is to use lightbulbs that don’t produce blue light. Alternatively, you may simply slip on a pair of glasses that block blue light and she can then go anywhere in the house without fear of losing your supply of melatonin. Because a father (or other night time caretaker) can also develop postpartum depression from taking care of his baby at night, he needs to take the same precautions.
For some pregnant women who find they are getting up during the night, using blue blocking glasses and/or light bulbs makes sense for the same reasons. In fact, experience has shown that putting on glasses that block blue light well in advance of bedtime has a number of benefits. It allows melatonin to start flowing earlier than usual, which makes it easier to fall and stay asleep. (Before the invention of electric lights, this was not a problem.) In addition to helping people sleep, melatonin is also a powerful cancer fighter.
By making these simple changes in your environment, you can plan for the arrival of your baby knowing you’re taking an excellent step toward staying well. These glasses and light bulbs are available at http://lowbluelights.com.
About the authors:
Dr. Shoshana is a psychologist who treats pregnant and postpartum mothers. She has conducted clinical trials of the glasses and light bulbs in helping mothers recover. She is the author of a number of books, her most recent being Postpartum Depression for Dummies. Her upcoming book, “Pregnant on Prozac” will be available in January, ’09. You can contact her at ClearSky-Inc.com
Dr. Hansler is a physicist with a lifetime career doing research on lighting. Since his retirement from GE he has founded the lighting Innovations Institute at John Carroll University. For the past number of years he has turned his attention to the effect of light on health. His recent book is “Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer!” http://lowbluelights.com.