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Light therapy

What is light therapy?

Light therapy, also called phototherapy, involves the use of a bright artificial light to improve depressive mood. It has long been used in psychiatric practice, usually for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. The mechanism by which light therapy regulates mood is unclear. It has been suggested to have modulating effects on serotonin and melatonin and on the synchronisation of circadian rhythms, which is why it is often accompanied by sleep deprivation. This topic assesses the use of light therapy for depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.

What is the evidence for light therapy?

Moderate quality evidence suggests a medium-sized effect of improved depression following light therapy. This effect was not influenced by medication status, whether sleep deprivation was also given, the intensity or colour of the light, the patients’ age or sex, or their age at illness onset.

Moderate to low quality evidence suggests a medium-sized effect of improved depression with light therapy compared to placebo, medication or sleep deprivation, with no increased risk of shifting to a manic state.

April 2019

Last updated at: 12:04 am, 10th April 2019
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Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

NeuRA Libraries

Title Colour Legend:
Green - Topic summary is available.
Orange - Topic summary is being compiled.
Red - Topic summary has no current systematic review available.