Scheduled bright light for treatment of insomnia in older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Mar;57(3):441-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.02164.x. Epub 2009 Jan 29.


Objectives: To determine whether bright light can improve sleep in older individuals with insomnia.

Design: Single-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week, parallel-group randomized design comparing four treatment groups representing a factorial combination of two lighting conditions and two times of light administration.

Setting: At-home light treatment; eight office therapy sessions.

Participants: Thirty-six women and fifteen men (aged 63.6+/-7.1) meeting primary insomnia criteria recruited from the community.

Intervention: A 12-week program of sleep hygiene and exposure to bright ( approximately 4,000 lux) or dim light ( approximately 65 lux) scheduled daily in the morning or evening for 45 minutes.

Measurements: Within-group changes were observed for subjective (sleep logs, questionnaires) and objective (actigraphy, polysomnography) sleep measures after morning or evening bright light.

Results: Within-group changes for subjective sleep measures after morning or evening bright light were not significantly different from those observed after exposure to scheduled dim light. Objective sleep changes (actigraphy, polysomnography) after treatment were not significantly different between the bright and dim light groups. Scheduled light exposure was able to shift the circadian phase predictably but was unrelated to changes in objective or subjective sleep measures. A polymorphism in CLOCK predicted morningness but did not moderate the effects of light on sleep. The phase angle between the circadian system (melatonin midpoint) and sleep (darkness) predicted the magnitude of phase delays, but not phase advances, engendered by bright light.

Conclusion: Except for one subjective measure, scheduled morning or evening bright light effects were not different from those of scheduled dim light. Thus, support was not found for bright light treatment of older individuals with primary insomnia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Polysomnography
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*