What is Chronotherapy

? A recent development in biopsychology, based on more than 30 years of controlled clinical trials that began at the National Institute of Mental Health and spread worldwide.  

Chronotherapy works by resetting the circadian clock in our brain. This adjustment can relieve widespread problems people have with sleep, depression, jet lag, difficulties linked to shift work, and other conditions as well. To accomplish clock resetting, chronotherapy makes use of simple but potent non-drug techniques such as:

  • structured light and dark exposure
  • extended wakefulness (“wake therapy”) followed by restorative sleep
  • ultra-low-dose melatonin
  • meal and exercise timing.

Who Are We? Michael is an authority on circadian rhythms and mental health. He heads the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center. Ian is both a psychologist and a widely published author of fiction and nonfiction. Together, they are the authors of the new papertback, Reset Your Inner Clock: The Drug-Free Way to Your Best-Ever Sleep, Mood, and Energy (2013).

What Are Our Goals Blogging for Psychology Today? We want to take off from the topics in our book and keep you on top of the latest news, including controversies about safety, efficacy and side effects. To get a taste of our scope, here are a few of our 18 chapter titles:

  • Getting Light Wrong
  • Healing Light
  • Nighttime Meds and Melatonin
  • Strategies for Babies and Children
  • The Challenges of Adolescence

On the drawing board for our initial postings:

  • How to Recognize and Relieve Winter Depression (SAD)
  • The Pitfalls of “Springing Forward” and “Falling Behind” (and their Correctives)
  • Behind the Wheel at the Wrong Hours: Can We Deal with the Risk?
  • Starting School in the Dark: Can We Deal with the Risk?
  • Drug vs. Non-Drug Solutions for Bipolar Disorder

We want you to post your reactions and questions. We will dedicate blog posts to the issues you raise here.  Our goal is to be interactive!

Please sign up now, so you can join the discussions as they go online. And of course, we hope you will read Reset Your Inner Clock, which we have written for users and doctors in a user-friendly spirit.


Ian and Michael

P.S. You can find our book, and a set of recommended chronotherapy devices, at the online store of the nonprofit Center for Environmental Therapeutics.

About the Authors

Ian McMahan, Ph.D.

Ian McMahan, Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Brooklyn College, CUNY, and a lifelong writer.

Michael Terman, Ph.D.

Michael Terman, Ph.D., is a professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University.

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