Light Therapy

Overview of Light Therapy

In the early 1980s, Herb Kern, a research engineer, who thought that his annual cycle of depression might be caused by the shorter and duller daylight hours in winter, approached doctors working at the National Institute for Mental Health in Bethesda, USA. They proposed a treatment where he was exposed to light, equivalent to summer sunlight, for several hours each day. By the fourth day his symptoms had virtually disappeared (Lewy et al 1982). This was the start of our acknowledging the condition that has come to be known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or recurrent winter depression, is now considered a clinical subtype of major depression.


Light Therapy part 10

Part 10

Overview of Light Therapy

Seasonal Affective Disorder Study – References

Avery, D. H., & Norden, M. J. (1998). Dawn Simulation and Bright Light Therapy in Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder. In R.W. Lam (Ed.), Seasonal Affective Disorder and Beyond: Light treatment for SAD and Non-SAD conditions (pp.143-158). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.


Light Therapy part 9

Overview of Light Therapy

Side Effects of Light Therapy

Potential side effects of light therapy are rare and most often include jitteriness, a feeling of eyestrain and headache. Light therapy, like antidepressant medications, occasionally will cause patients to switch into a manic state during which they may have difficulty sleeping, become restless or irritable, and feel "speedy" or too high (Terman & Terman, 1999).


Light Therapy part 8

Overview of Light Therapy

Light Therapy & Healthy Individuals

According to research by Partonen & Lonnqvist (2000) bright light improves vitality and alleviates distress in healthy people. Partonen & Lonnqvist exposed office employees to bright light during winter and found that repeated bright-light exposure improved vitality and reduced depressive symptoms.


Light Therapy part 7

Overview of Light Therapy

Light Therapy & Sleep Disorders

Humans and animals generally have innate sleep-wake cycles close to but not exactly 24 hours. They depend on the daily light-dark cycle to keep their circadian rhythms to a regular 24 hours.


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.


Light Therapy part 5

Overview of Light Therapy

Effectiveness of Light Therapy

Several qualitative reviews have concluded that light therapy is an effective treatment for SAD, with response rates of 60% to 90% in controlled studies (Eastman et al 1998; Lamberg, 1998; Partonen & Lonnqvist, 1996; Tam et al, 1996). It has been found that between 75-85% of people suffering from SAD and SSAD feel better after 3-4 days of consistent light therapy. Some individuals feel better immediately after their first dose, even within 20 minutes of exposure, while others may need several days (Terman et al, 1998).


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