Bright Light Therapy Improves Combat PTSD Sleep Disturbances

Bright light therapy has significant effects on sleep disturbances
associated with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) according
to researchers.

Results indicate that bright light therapy produced a significantly
greater improvement than placebo in sleep disturbances specific to PTSD. Bright
light therapy also produced a moderate improvement in PTSD symptoms and

“Results of this ongoing study show significant effects of bright
light on disruptive nocturnal behaviors associated with combat PTSD, as well as
positive effects of bright light therapy on PTSD symptom severity,” study
coordinator Shannon Cornelius, PhD, graduate research assistant for Shawn D.
Youngstedt, PhD in the department of exercise science at the University of
South Carolina in Columbia, SC, said in a news release. “Because bright
light therapy is a relatively simple, self-administered, inexpensive treatment
with few side effects, these results are an important step to further establish
the efficacy of bright light therapy as an alternative or adjunct treatment for
combat-related PTSD.”

The study involved 16 soldiers who returned to the U.S. with
combat-related PTSD after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Following a 1-week baseline, participants were randomized to one
of two 4-week treatments. Eight soldiers received 10,000 lux of bright light
therapy for 30 minutes each day. The other eight participants were assigned to
the placebo group and received sham treatment with an inactivated negative ion
generator. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-2) was completed at
baseline and immediately following completion of the study. At weekly
intervals, depression was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II),
and sleep quality was assessed with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)
with addendum for PTSD (PSQI-PTSD).

“Disturbed sleep is known to interact with depression and anxiety
in a vicious cycle,” Cornelius said. “By reducing the severity and
occurrence of sleep disturbances, it may be possible to reduce the severity of
symptoms such as anxiety and depression in combat-related PTSD.”

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