Light Therapy part 6

Overview of Light Therapy

Light Therapy & Depression

Some psychiatrists are now suggesting that light therapy may be effective in treating non-seasonal, classical depression (Beauchemin & Hays, 1997; Benedetti et al 2001; McEnany & Lee, 1997) and patients in long term care (Lyketsos et al 1999). Daniel Kripke, MD, (director of the Circadian Pacemaker Laboratory at the University of California, San Diego) argues that light may produce antidepressant benefits within 1 week, in contrast to psychopharmacological treatments, which typically take several weeks.
Indeed, a variety of studies have shown light therapy to be more effective in reducing depression than anti-depressants, though research is still in its relatively early stages. Wirz-Justice et al (1999) investigated the usefulness of light therapy in the setting of a psychiatric hospital. They found daily self-ratings revealed positive effects of light (significant from day 5 onwards) with improved energy, sleep quality and shortened sleep latency with no change in sleep duration or the number of nocturnal awakenings. In a review of clinical trials, Kripke (1998) found that bright light therapy for non-seasonal major depression produced statistically significant net reductions in mood symptoms of about 12% to 35% on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. These results are comparable with those obtained in major trials of antidepressant medications. Light therapy and medications appear to work best in combination, suggesting it would be advantageous to offer depressed patients speedy relief with light therapy while also starting them on medications that have more extensively verified efficacy. Combined treatment of depression can lower costs because faster improvement means less disability and morbidity (Kripke, 1998).

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