Dawn simulation treatment of winter depression: a controlled study

Am J Psychiatry. 1993 Jan;150(1):113-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.150.1.113.


Objective: This study sought to determine whether dawn simulation was superior to a shorter dimmer "placebo" dawn signal in treating winter depression.

Method: In a randomized, parallel design, 22 patients with winter depression were treated with either 1 week of a 2-hour dawn simulation peaking at 250 lux or 1 week of a 30-minute dawn simulation peaking at 0.2 lux. The subjects were told that they would receive either a "gradual" dawn or a "rapid" dawn reaching an intensity that would be dimmer than standard bright light treatment. At the end of both the baseline week and the treatment week, subjects were assessed in a blind manner with the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Analysis of covariance was used to compare the two dawn treatments.

Results: The 2-hour, 250-lux dawn simulation resulted in Hamilton depression scale scores that were significantly lower than scores after the 30-minute, 0.2-lux dawn simulation.

Conclusions: This study indicates that dawn simulation is an effective treatment for winter depression.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Placebos
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / diagnosis
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / psychology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / therapy*
  • Sunlight


  • Placebos