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      Light Therapy for Seasonal and Nonseasonal Depression: Efficacy, Protocol, Safety, and Side Effects

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      CNS Spectrums

      Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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          Abstract

          Bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been investigated and applied for over 20 years. Physicians and clinicians are increasingly confident that bright light therapy is a potent, specifically active, nonpharmaceutical treatment modality. Indeed, the domain of light treatment is moving beyond SAD, to nonseasonal depression (unipolar and bipolar), seasonal flare-ups of bulimia nervosa, circadian sleep phase disorders, and more. Light therapy is simple to deliver to outpatients and inpatients alike, although the optimum dosing of light and treatment time of day requires individual adjustment. The side-effect profile is favorable in comparison with medications, although the clinician must remain vigilant about emergent hypomania and autonomic hyperactivation, especially during the first few days of treatment. Importantly, light therapy provides a compatible adjunct to antidepressant medication, which can result in accelerated improvement and fewer residual symptoms.

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          Most cited references 123

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          The efficacy of light therapy in the treatment of mood disorders: a review and meta-analysis of the evidence.

          The purpose of this study was to assess the evidence base for the efficacy of light therapy in treating mood disorders. The authors systematically searched PubMed (January 1975 to July 2003) to identify randomized, controlled trials of light therapy for mood disorders that fulfilled predefined criteria. These articles were abstracted, and data were synthesized by disease and intervention category. Only 13% of the studies met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses revealed that a significant reduction in depression symptom severity was associated with bright light treatment (eight studies, having an effect size of 0.84 and 95% confidence interval [CI] of 0.60 to 1.08) and dawn simulation in seasonal affective disorder (five studies; effect size=0.73, 95% CI=0.37 to 1.08) and with bright light treatment in nonseasonal depression (three studies; effect size=0.53, 95% CI=0.18 to 0.89). Bright light as an adjunct to antidepressant pharmacotherapy for nonseasonal depression was not effective (five studies; effect size=-0.01, 95% CI=-0.36 to 0.34). Many reports of the efficacy of light therapy are not based on rigorous study designs. This analysis of randomized, controlled trials suggests that bright light treatment and dawn simulation for seasonal affective disorder and bright light for nonseasonal depression are efficacious, with effect sizes equivalent to those in most antidepressant pharmacotherapy trials. Adopting standard approaches to light therapy's specific issues (e.g., defining parameters of active versus placebo conditions) and incorporating rigorous designs (e.g., adequate group sizes, randomized assignment) are necessary to evaluate light therapy for mood disorders.
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            Seasonal Affective Disorder

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              Antidepressant and circadian phase-shifting effects of light.

              Bright light can suppress nighttime melatonin production in humans, but ordinary indoor light does not have this effect. This finding suggested that bright light may have other chronobiologic effects in humans as well. Eight patients who regularly became depressed in the winter (as day length shortens) significantly improved after 1 week of exposure to bright light in the morning (but not after 1 week of bright light in the evening). The antidepressant response to morning light was accompanied by an advance (shift to an earlier time) in the onset of nighttime melatonin production. These results suggest that timing may be critical for the antidepressant effects of bright light.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                CNS Spectrums
                CNS spectr.
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                1092-8529
                2165-6509
                August 2005
                November 07 2014
                August 2005
                : 10
                : 8
                : 647-663
                Article
                10.1017/S1092852900019611
                16041296
                © 2005

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