Clinical Studies for Winter Depression (SAD)
and Non-seasonal Major/Bipolar Depression
Light Therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder / Winter Depression (SAD)
In the first pilot study of Lo-LIGHT therapy lamps on winter depressives, Dr. A.J. Lewy, showed that Lo-LIGHT therapy lamps produce the same physiological effects as bright white light therapy boxes that are 10 to 25 times as bright. Dr. Lewy is the originator of bright light therapy for the treatment of winter depression and coined the term "Seasonal Affective Disorder" and its acronym "SAD" to describe this seasonal depressive disorder. Ref 1
Since that pilot study, Sunnex Biotechnologies' low intensity light therapy lamps have undergone independent testing at a number of university medical centers and research laboratories. Lo-LIGHT therapy lamps have been used successfully for over 15 years by people with Seasonal Affective Disorder / SAD / winter depression, and sleep disorders. Although providing only a small fraction of the light intensity as a bright light, blue light or blue-enhanced light therapy lamp, the soft GreenLIGHT from a Lo-LIGHT therapy lamp achieves the equivalent effect, in the same exposure time. The safety of a Lo-LIGHT therapy lamp stands in contrast to risk of retinal damage from the use of bright light and blue light therapy lamps, where experts continue to express concern that the use of these high intensity therapy lamps may contribute to the loss of vision by the users of these devices. More on risk of retinal damage from high intensity light therapy devices
Lo-Light Therapy and Non-Seasonal Major Depression
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that patients with a history of depression being hospitalized for severe Major Depression rapidly remitted following a brief chronobiolgical intervention which included thirty minutes of properly timed exposure to a Lo-LIGHT .therapy lamp and an SSRI antidepressant. In this study, the majority of subjects experienced an amelioration of their depressive episodes within 2 weeks from the start of treatment. Within 4 weeks almost 80% of the subjects were no longer were depressed. Ref 2
The authoritative Cochrane Review gave an "A" quality rating to this study using Lo-LIGHT therapy lamps and amended their definition of "bright light" therapy to include Sunnex Biotechnologies' low-intensity Lo-LIGHT therapy lamp in their Review of Light Therapy for Non-seasonal Depression. Ref 3
Studies using bright white light therapy lamps have also found light therapy effective in the treatment of non-seasonal Major Depression. In 2015 Lam et al published a study using an SSRI antidepressant and bright white therapy which had also had positive results, although these results were not quite as robust as the study referenced above that used Lo-LIGHT therapy lamps. Ref 2a
Lo-Light Therapy and Bipolar Depression
Other studies have also found treatment with properly timed exposure to low intensity Lo-LIGHT lamps are effective for the treatment of bipolar depression. Studies in J. Clinical Psychiatry and Chronobiology International found that without the addition of an antidepressant, one week of treatment with properly scheduled low intensity GreenLIGHT therapy caused remission of the depressive condition of people with bipolar disorder. Furthermore, this remission generally lasted for at least several months with no additional treatment. The majority of patients did not relapse within the 9 month follow-up period following the one week of treatment. Additionally a study published in Chronobiology International indicated a correspondence between the effectiveness of the treatment and the extent of the circadian phase advance induced by the [Lo-]LIGHT therapy treatment. [SEE Ref 5, below]
JAMA Psychiatry: Sustained remission from bipolar depression "in a matter of hours or days"
The effectiveness of brief chronobiological treatment using properly timed low-intensity GreenLIGHT therapy from a Lo-LIGHT lamp was reported in JAMA Psychiatry. An f-MRI study examined changes of brain activity of bipolar patients with severe depression as compared with the brain activity of those patients in remission one week later, after the chronobiological intervention. The paper asserted that properly timed low-intensity GreenLIGHT therapy causes "rapid amelioration of bipolar depression in matter of hours or days". [JAMA Psychiatry was formerly known as the Archives of General Psychiatry]. Ref 4
The Rationale of Light Therapy for Non-Seasonal Depression
In the journal Science the lead author of many of the studies referenced above explained that the very transient relief from depression induced by sleep deprivation can be sustained for many months by combining sleep deprivation with properly timed light therapy. (see reference 5). The remission from bipolar depression induced by low intensity GreenLIGHT therapy in these studies was linked to its influence on the internal biological clock, and that the impressive sustained therapeutic response in patients was related to the strong shift in circadian phase induced by the low-intensity GreenLIGHT from Lo-LIGHT lamps. (see Chronobiology International in Reference 5).
The benefits of chronotherapeutical interventions, including the combination of sleep deprivation and Light Therapy were summarized in Sleep Medicine Reviews. The authors recommend that because of the demonstrated efficacy and the lack of any adverse side effects this chronotherapeutic intervention be adopted as a first line intervention for bipolar depression. Ref 5