Can Sunglasses Help Manage Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder affects people in countless ways that can derail an otherwise happy and healthy life. Perhaps the biggest way BD affects people is by causing problems getting enough sleep. Thankfully, researchers thank they have found a way to help those with bipolar disorder, depression, or even general sleep troubles get the rest their body needs.
According to a new Norwegian study, wearing amber-tinted glasses at night can help those with bipolar disorder get better sleep and directly leads to fewer symptoms and overall better well-being.
The amber glasses actively block out blue light, which helps the body and mind readjust sleeping patterns. The researchers say blocking out blue light works because blue light is a major part of sunlight. When your body is exposed to this, it signals that the day is starting and that it is time to get up and active. Similarly, darkness tells the brain it is time to sleep.
In the small study, published in the journal Bipolar Disorders, 23 people hospitalized for bipolar disorder were assessed using tests to measure mania and other bipolar disorder symptoms. Twelve of the participants were then assigned to wear “blue-blocking” amber-tinted glasses for one week, while another 11 continued their normal lives.
When the researchers assessed the participants after just one week, what they found was astounding. The group wearing amber-tinted glasses scored an average of 14 points lower on tests for mania. Notable improvements were even seen after just three nights of wearing the sunglasses.
“I was surprised by the magnitude of changes and the rapid onset of improvement,” says study first author Tone Henriksen, a researcher with the University of Bergen and Valen Hospital in Norway. She noted that the most drug treatments don’t show such quick and notable improvements.
Dr. James Phelps, a researcher and psychiatrist with Samaritan Health Services in Corvallis, Oregon and who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek that the findings are “knock-your-socks-off results.”
The research into using these types of glasses to regulate sleep is limited and this recent study is too small to draw conclusions from. However, the findings are remarkable and suggest blocking blue light, especially at night, may have potential to help regulate bipolar disorder symptoms without the side-effects of drugs.