Ancient medical systems, including Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, have long recognized that humans have distinct biological rhythms that are important in the diagnosis, treatment and maintenance of optimal function of our bodies and minds.
Chronotherapy is a branch of medicine concerned with manipulating our biological rhythms to improve health. Our physiological processes are governed by a number of biological rhythms:
- circannual (rhythms that occur about a year- ex. reproduction)
- infradian (rhythms that are longer than a day (weekly/monthly) – ex. the menstrual cycle)
- circadian (rhythms that occur about a day – ex. the sleep cycle & cortisol production)
- ultradian (rhythms that occur in more than one cycle per day. ex. Heart rate).
Therapies addressing circadian rhythms are the most important in addressing mental health concerns, sleep abnormalities and hormonal imbalances.
Modern medicine has established that circadian rhythms are involved in virtually all of our physiological processes. Regulation of our circadian rhythms is achieved by our biological clock. The master biological clock is located in our pineal gland deep in the brain and regulates our rhythms via melatonin secretion and inhibition.
A number of factors influence the circadian rhythm including:
- Social and Environmental cues (such as mealtimes, exercise, socializing, watching T.V, etc.)
- Transmeridian travel
- Shift work
There is a growing body of evidence that supports the finding that those suffering from Bipolar disorders are particularly vulnerable to aberrations in their circadian rhythms. Seasonal affective disorder (or S.A.D.) is considered a bipolar variant and there is strong evidence that light therapy and other chronotherapeutic interventions can have a significant therapeutic effect on this disorder.
A variety of chronotherapeutic interventions can make a significant impact on the course, severity and duration of bipolar episodes. In my practice I use a number of these tools including:
- Social Rhythm Metric (SRM) tool
- Light &/Dark therapy
- Mood charting
- Low-dose melatonin administration
- Principles based on the field of therapy known as Interpersonal Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)
In addition, I offer individualized counsel and support about how to minimize circadian disturbances and triggers that can interfere with optimal circadian rhythms and thus optimal mental and physical health.