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Sleep. 2005 May;28(5):616-23.

The treatment of early-morning awakening insomnia with 2 evenings of bright light.

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School of Psychology, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5001.



To assess the effectiveness of brief bright-light therapy for the treatment of early-morning awakening insomnia.


Twenty-four healthy adults with early-morning awakening insomnia were assigned to either the bright-light condition (2,500-lux white light) or the control (dim red light) condition.


The circadian phase of rectal temperature and urinary melatonin rhythms were assessed with 26-hour constant routines before and after 2 evenings of light therapy. Sleep and daytime functioning were monitored using sleep diaries, activity monitors, and mood scales before light therapy and for 4 weeks during the follow-up period. While there were no significant circadian phase changes in the dim-light control group, the bright-light group had significant 2-hour phase delays of circadian temperature and melatonin rhythm. Compared to pretreatment measures, over the 4-week follow-up period, the bright-light group had a greater reduction of time awake after sleep onset, showed a trend toward waking later, and had a greater increase of total sleep time. Participants in the bright-light condition also tended to report greater reductions of negative daytime symptoms, including significantly fewer days of feeling depressed at the 4-week follow-up, as compared with the control group.


Two evenings of bright-light exposure phase delayed the circadian rhythms of early-morning awakening insomniacs. It also improved diary and actigraphy sleep measures and improved some indexes of daytime functioning for up to 1 month after light exposure. The study suggests that a brief course of evening bright-light therapy can be an effective treatment for early-morning awakening insomniacs who have relatively phase advanced circadian rhythms.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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