Chronotherapeutics (light and wake therapy) in affective disorders

Psychol Med. 2005 Jul;35(7):939-44. doi: 10.1017/s003329170500437x.


The Committee on Chronotherapeutics, delegated by the International Society for Affective Disorders (ISAD), makes the following recommendations after reviewing the evidence as of November 2004. (1) Wake therapy is the most rapid antidepressant available today: approximately 60% of patients, independent of diagnostic subtype, respond with marked improvement within hours. Treatment can be a single or repeated sleep deprivation, total (all night) or partial (second half of the night). Relapse can be prevented by daily light therapy, concomitant administration of SSRIs, lithium (for bipolar patients), or a short phase advance of sleep over 3 days following a single night of wake therapy. Combinations of these interventions show great promise. (2) Light therapy is effective for major depression--not only for the seasonal subtype. As an adjuvant to conventional antidepressants in unipolar patients, or lithium in bipolar patients, morning light hastens and potentiates the antidepressant response. Light therapy shows benefit even for patients with chronic depression of 2 years or more, outperforming their weak response to drugs. This method provides a viable alternative for patients who refuse, resist or cannot tolerate medication, or for whom drugs may be contraindicated, as in antepartum depression. (3) Given the urgent need for new strategies to treat patients with residual depressive symptoms, clinical trials of wake therapy and/or adjuvant light therapy, coupled with follow-up studies of long-term recurrence, are a high priority.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*
  • Phototherapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome