Chronotherapy: rapid treatment of depression without medications 
(written 10/2010) 

Summary:  Treat moderate to severe depression and feel measurably better the next day.  Nothing else is that fast. Ah, but it isn't easy, unless you have a lot of help.

Basically, the idea here is to make very large, planned, deliberate shifts in your sleep schedule and your light exposure. Multiple research studies show this can work even without medications, though you can do all this with medications underway as well.

What is chronotherapy?   What are the risks?   Is there much research behind this?

Usually I'd give you a whole page on this but I can't give you better answers than John Gottlieb, M.D., a psychiatrist in Chicago who's become a leading expert on how to put Chronotherapy into basic treatment of depression.

One thing you won't find on his website:  Can I do this on my own?

Well, here are the main ingredients:

  1. "wake therapy"
  2. "sleep phase advance"
  3. a light box
  4. a dawn simulator

Remember, Dr. Gottlieb is going to tell you a lot more about each of these elements. But I want you to know: in theory, you could do this with the help of your psychiatrist for guidance and monitoring. (If you're anywhere near Chicago, use Dr. Gottlieb's team there).

You'll need at least one very supportive friend or family member, preferably more like three or four of them, who'll each take shifts while you do the hard work. I've done this instead of putting patients in hospital (things were that bad) and three days later, they didn't need to consider the hospital at all. But there are significant risks, including bringing on manic symptoms, so don't do this on your own

When you're done with Dr. Gottlieb's website, if you need more information about where to get your own  light box or  dawn simulator, take these links, and explore the pages on which they are located.

I hope to return to this page soon and describe in more detail how I've taught patients to do this, using family and friends for support. In the meantime, good luck with your education and the process of treatment.  Okay, now go see Dr. Gottlieb's Chronotherapy website.