Circadian Rhythm Chronotherapy for Depression – Experiment

Do not, and I mean do not try this at home. I’m an idiot. Don’t be like me. Clear?

Today I read about a new therapy known as Triple Chronotherapy. Yes, it’s a big fancy word. Chronotherapy. Quite frankly, it sounds made up.

But it isn’t.


Pronunciation:  /ˌkrän-ə-ˈther-ə-pē, ˌkrō-nə-/
Function: n
pl -pies ; 1 : treatment of a sleep disorder (as insomnia) by changing sleeping and waking times in an attempt to reset the patient’s biological clock
2 : the administration of medication in coordination with the body’s circadian rhythms to maximize effectiveness and minimize side effects

And just in case you’re not familiar:

circadian rhythm n.

A daily rhythmic activity cycle, based on 24-hour intervals, that is exhibited by many organisms.

Basically it’s when you sleep and wake. Circadian rhythm as it impacts psychiatry. (Good to know.)

Triple Chronotherapy Components


Triple Chronotherapy, as it is known by Chicago Psychiatry Associates’ Program in Psychiatric Chronotherapy, is a combination of wake and bright light therapy along with sleep phase advance.

Bright Light Therapy

Bright light therapy is a pretty common therapy that I’ve been somewhat using for years. It is the administration of high-intensity flourescent light (fake sunlight) most commonly associated with the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A light box is used to accomplish this.

In this case the “sunlight” is dosed in very specific ways at very specific times. Light therapy is used to treat more than just SAD.

Wake Therapy

Wake therapy is the use of prolonged periods of wakefulness, with intervening periods of recovery sleep.

Wake therapy is best used as an antidepressant response inducer or accelerator; it jump starts the improvement in depression.

I’ll be talking about what wake theory looks like in a bit.

Sleep Phase Advance

Sleep phase advance moves the time of sleep onset and awakening forward.

Sleep phase advance acts to minimize sleep in the critical, 2nd half of the night and correct delays of circadian rhythms found in depression.

Are we having fun yet?

Triple Chronotherapy

So then, for people who are really depressed, these three techniques can be used together to try to re-regulate a person’s circadian rhythm. You know, theoretically.

I won’t rehash everything the Program in Psychiatric Chronotherapy website talks about, but here are a few point you might like to know:

Check their website as their pages are all fully-referenced. There is lots of science behind this stuff.

Chronotherapy Schedule


The schedule makes it really clear what they’re talking about.

Thursday – stay awake all day and night

Friday – stay awake all day

Friday – 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM – light therapy (time and duration of light therapy depending on patient)

Friday – 6:00 PM – 1:00 AM – sleep

Saturday – 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM – light therapy

Saturday – 8:00 PM – 3:00 AM – sleep

Sunday – 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM – light therapy

Sunday – 10:00 PM – 5:00 AM – sleep

And then you can resume your schedule, basically maintaining sleep between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM. We’re absolutely not having fun now.

The Chronotherapy Experiment

So yes, I’m trying out this nonsense. I read about chronotherapy this morning on, and quite frankly, I trust Dr. Jim Phelps. I believe that if he thinks this is credible then it is. Will it work? Well, I have no idea, but I consider that endorsement key.

Clock Parts

Again I say, don’t do chronotherapy at home kids.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m extremely experienced and knowledgeable and I can handle things that most people can’t. This is done in a treatment facility for a reason.

I Start Chronotherapy Today

I read about the therapy this morning and I’m starting tonight. Again, I don’t recommend this. People should think out and research a treatment, especially one this highly unpleasant. But for me I don’t have any deliverables due tomorrow and the weekend follows so there’s no time like the present for something highly unpleasant.

And yes, I have drafted a friend of mine into staying awake with me. Yes, he’s a very, very, very good person. I have no idea how I’m going to pay him back for his selflessness.

Feelings on Chronotherapy

In all honesty, the results are just too juicy not to at least try. I might fail. In fact, considering I have to stay up for 36 hours I’d say there’s a high likelihood that I’ll fail, but I think it’s worth a shot anyway. I could be wrong. It could all go horribly wrong and I’ll end up jumping off the roof in mad mania or suiciding in depression. But I’m hoping not.

I’m Scared

And I’m rather terrified. Really. I’m serious. I’m so scared that I’m going to get worse I don’t think I can even express it to you. I feel like I used to feel before a skydive. My stomach is clenched in fear. Yeah. Anxious.

My friend will be here shortly. He’ll distract me from how freaked out I feel. And, of course, kill himself in the process by having to stay up too. Sometimes I’m a serious burden.

Documentation of the Chronotherapy Experiment

I plan on posting here and I’ll update Twitter (@natasha_tracy) too.

Initial Readings:

Thursday, 10:00 PM

Depression 5

Anxiety 7

Energy 4

Hypomania 0

…and we’re off…

The conclusion and final thoughts on my chronotherapy experiment for bipolar depression.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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