Light therapy in the treatment of patients with bipolar depression: A meta-analytic study

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Jun;26(6):1037-47. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.03.001. Epub 2016 Mar 9.


Light therapy (LT) has been widely used in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Recently some evidence indicated that LT may play a role in bipolar depression, either as monotherapy or in combination with total sleep deprivation (TSD). However, the studies examining the treatment effect of LT in bipolar depression resulted in inconsistent findings. To clarify the role of LT in the disorder, we conducted a meta-analysis to compare the efficacy of LT in the treatment of bipolar depression. The results of individual studies were synthesized by a random effects model. Nine studies including 489 patients with bipolar depression were included in this current meta-analysis. We found that disease severity was significantly decreased after LT, in both with and without TSD, and with concomitant medication (p<0.001). Augmentation treatment with LT significantly decreased disease severity compared to treatment without LT (p=0.024). Our results highlight the significant efficacy of LT, either as monotherapy or in combination with TSD, in the treatment of bipolar depression. However, the detailed mechanism of LT still remains elusive. Further well-designed controlled trials are required to investigate the optimal intensity and frequency of LT in the treatment of bipolar depression.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Light therapy; Meta-analysis; Total sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Humans
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Treatment Outcome