The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued the following news release:

Bright light therapy improves sleep disturbances in soldiers with combat PTSD

Study suggests that bright light therapy may be an effective treatment
for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder

Bright light therapy has significant effects on sleep disturbances
associated with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, according
to a research abstract that will be presented Monday, June 7, 2010, in
San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the
Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

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 depression.

“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,”
said study coordinator Shannon Cornelius, PhD, graduate research
assistant for Dr. Shawn D. Youngstedt in the department of exercise
science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

“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 one-week baseline, participants were
randomized to one of two four-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).

Cornelius noted that sleep disturbance is a commonly reported problem
that can play both a precipitating and perpetuating role in PTSD, making
it an important target for therapy.

“Disturbed sleep is known to interact with depression and anxiety in a
vicious cycle,” said Cornelius.

“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.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 70 to 90 percent of
people with PTSD describe subjective sleep disturbance. Recurrent
nightmares of the traumatic event represent one of the most problematic
and enduring symptoms of PTSD.

These nightmares may take the form of a realistic reliving of the
traumatic event or depict only some of its elements.

Bright light therapy exposes your eyes to intense but safe amounts of
light for a specific and regular length of time.

Typically it involves exposure to up to 10,000 lux of light for
scheduled periods of 20 minutes or more using a small light box.

In a 2007 study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, Youngstedt
reported that bright light exposure may have an anxiolytic effect.

Three hours of exposure to 3,000 lux of bright light for three
consecutive days reduced anxiety in a group of low-anxiety adults.

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