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More light! A novel treatment for seasonal affective disorder

News
September 13, 2022
By
Olena Mokshyna, PhD.

Though a larger-scale clinical trial is needed, results suggest that, indeed, “more light” is beneficial for people with SAD.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is caused by a lack of daylight during autumn and winter and leads to recurring major depressive episodes. SAD is widely spread, and its effects are debilitating. The most common treatment for SAD at the moment is lightbox therapy. It is provided by sitting in front of a lightbox for half an hour in the morning. As shown by meta-analyses, the lightbox regimen provides only moderate results.

The possible reason behind the ineffectiveness of the lightbox therapy might be simple – not enough light. Comparing characteristics of the lightbox light and natural sunlight on a summer’s day suggests that the therapeutic exposure is simply insufficient to alleviate the SAD symptoms.

Sansküller et al. suggested an alternative Bright, Whole-Room, All-Day (BROAD) approach. BROAD therapy extends an existing promising treatment – light room therapy. In light room therapy, bright light covers the whole visual field, but it is clinic-based, and treatment sessions are short.Thus, the amount of light exposure is much lower than one might expect on an average sunny day. The BROAD approach uses very bright light – up to 100,000 lumens. Lumen here is the standard unit for a quantity of visible light emitted by source in all directions. The treatment duration is at least 6 h per day on at least 5 days a week. The course of treatment lasted for a minimum of 4 weeks.

The researchers conveyed a proof-of-concept randomized clinical trial with 62 patients. Patients were randomly assigned either to BROAD light therapy (in a very brightly illuminated room at their home) or to 30 minutes in front of a 10,000-lumen lightbox. SAD symptoms were assessed after 2 and 4 weeks. The results showed improvement in SAD symptoms in both groups, with a higher illuminance associated with larger improvement in the BROAD group.

This proof-of-concept trial suggests the potential of using BROAD therapy, which with further adjustments, might prove more effective than standard light treatment. Moreover, unlike lightbox therapy (where a person must sit and look at the box), the BROAD approach allows patients to continue their other activities and receive light exposure simultaneously. Though a larger-scale clinical trial is needed, these results suggest that, indeed, “more light” is beneficial for people with SAD. Developing and applying these findings has the potential to improve SAD therapy and improve the lives of millions of patients worldwide.

Source Depression & Anxiety 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is caused by a lack of daylight during autumn and winter and leads to recurring major depressive episodes. SAD is widely spread, and its effects are debilitating. The most common treatment for SAD at the moment is lightbox therapy. It is provided by sitting in front of a lightbox for half an hour in the morning. As shown by meta-analyses, the lightbox regimen provides only moderate results.

The possible reason behind the ineffectiveness of the lightbox therapy might be simple – not enough light. Comparing characteristics of the lightbox light and natural sunlight on a summer’s day suggests that the therapeutic exposure is simply insufficient to alleviate the SAD symptoms.

Sansküller et al. suggested an alternative Bright, Whole-Room, All-Day (BROAD) approach. BROAD therapy extends an existing promising treatment – light room therapy. In light room therapy, bright light covers the whole visual field, but it is clinic-based, and treatment sessions are short.Thus, the amount of light exposure is much lower than one might expect on an average sunny day. The BROAD approach uses very bright light – up to 100,000 lumens. Lumen here is the standard unit for a quantity of visible light emitted by source in all directions. The treatment duration is at least 6 h per day on at least 5 days a week. The course of treatment lasted for a minimum of 4 weeks.

The researchers conveyed a proof-of-concept randomized clinical trial with 62 patients. Patients were randomly assigned either to BROAD light therapy (in a very brightly illuminated room at their home) or to 30 minutes in front of a 10,000-lumen lightbox. SAD symptoms were assessed after 2 and 4 weeks. The results showed improvement in SAD symptoms in both groups, with a higher illuminance associated with larger improvement in the BROAD group.

This proof-of-concept trial suggests the potential of using BROAD therapy, which with further adjustments, might prove more effective than standard light treatment. Moreover, unlike lightbox therapy (where a person must sit and look at the box), the BROAD approach allows patients to continue their other activities and receive light exposure simultaneously. Though a larger-scale clinical trial is needed, these results suggest that, indeed, “more light” is beneficial for people with SAD. Developing and applying these findings has the potential to improve SAD therapy and improve the lives of millions of patients worldwide.

Source Depression & Anxiety 

Article reviewed by
Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.
SCIENTIFIC & MEDICAL ADVISOR
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Dr. Ana Baroni MD. Ph.D.

Scientific & Medical Advisor
Quality Garant

Ana has over 20 years of consultancy experience in longevity, regenerative and precision medicine. She has a multifaceted understanding of genomics, molecular biology, clinical biochemistry, nutrition, aging markers, hormones and physical training. This background allows her to bridge the gap between longevity basic sciences and evidence-based real interventions, putting them into the clinic, to enhance the healthy aging of people. She is co-founder of Origen.life, and Longevityzone. Board member at Breath of Health, BioOx and American Board of Clinical Nutrition. She is Director of International Medical Education of the American College of Integrative Medicine, Professor in IL3 Master of Longevity at Barcelona University and Professor of Nutrigenomics in Nutrition Grade in UNIR University.

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