Bright light therapy for agitation in dementia: a randomized controlled trial

Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Aug;21(4):711-21. doi: 10.1017/S1041610209008886. Epub 2009 Mar 27.


Background: Agitation is common in people with dementia, is distressing to patients and stressful to their carers. Drugs used to treat the condition have the potential to cause particularly severe side effects in older people with dementia and have been associated with an increased death rate. Alternatives to drug treatment for agitation should be sought. The study aimed to assess the effects of bright light therapy on agitation and sleep in people with dementia.

Methods: A single center randomized controlled trial of bright light therapy versus standard light was carried out. The study was completed prior to the mandatory registration of randomized controls on the clinical trials registry database and, owing to delays in writing up, retrospective registration was not completed.

Results: There was limited evidence of reduction in agitation in people on active treatment, sleep was improved and a suggestion of greater efficacy in the winter months.

Conclusions: Bright light therapy is a potential alternative to drug treatment in people with dementia who are agitated.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / classification
  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Alzheimer Disease / therapy*
  • Dementia, Vascular / psychology
  • Dementia, Vascular / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Lewy Body Disease / psychology
  • Lewy Body Disease / therapy*
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Nursing Homes
  • Phototherapy*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / therapy*
  • Seasons
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy