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Sleep Med Rev. 2007 Dec;11(6):509-22. Epub 2007 Aug 3.

Chronotherapeutics in a psychiatric ward.

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Department of Neuropsychiatric Sciences, Scientific Institute and University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy.


Psychiatric chronotherapeutics is the controlled exposure to environmental stimuli that act on biological rhythms in order to achieve therapeutic effects in the treatment of psychiatric conditions. In recent years some techniques (mainly light therapy and sleep deprivation) have passed the experimental developmental phase and reached the status of powerful and affordable clinical interventions for everyday clinical treatment of depressed patients. These techniques target the same brain neurotransmitter systems and the same brain areas as do antidepressant drugs, and should be administered under careful medical supervision. Their effects are rapid and transient, but can be stabilised by combining techniques among themselves or together with common drug treatments. Antidepressant chronotherapeutics target the broadly defined depressive syndrome, with response and relapse rates similar to those obtained with antidepressant drugs, and good results are obtained even in difficult-to-treat conditions such as bipolar depression. Chronotherapeutics offer a benign alternative to more radical treatments of depression for the treatment of severe depression in psychiatric wards, but with the advantage of rapidity of onset.

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