Light therapy, which consists of exposing the lamp to a lamp whose specific light is close to sunlight for half an hour to one hour, could constitute a serious treatment replacing antidepressants or supplementing them, as reported The world.

Recognized by the medical community as an effective therapeutic option for seasonal depressive episodes, due in part to the decline in luminosity in winter, it has been re-evaluated by French psychiatrists and is considered a real alternative for other types of depression. Pierre Alexis Geoffroy, psychiatrist and sleep doctor in Paris, and colleagues from Strasbourg University Hospital, conducted a meta-analysis, published on September 18 in the scientific journal Sleep medicine Reviews.

Antidepressant action of sunlight

The technique of light therapy was discovered in the late nineteenth century and awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903, for the Danish physician Niels Ryberg Finsen, who had noticed its effects on the stimulation of the immune system. But its use in psychiatry dates back to the end of the twentieth century in the United States, for the treatment of seasonal depression. This pathology concerns 5% of the population in France, and 10% in the northern countries, which benefit from little daylight in winter.

While in summer, the body is exposed to about 50,000 lux (the unit of illumination), in winter it is barely 2000 lux that reaches us. Exposing yourself to a white light with an intensity of 10,000 lux in the morning would have an anti-depressant effect and synchronize our internal clock, according to The world, hence a concentrated use on seasonal, autumnal and winter depressions.

By this simulation of sunlight, light therapy produces several effects, in particular for the improvement of sleep rhythms, the synchronization of biological rhythms, the improvement of vigilance, but also of happiness, with an action on production. serotonin. A therapy also available to the general public, with devices available in supermarkets and online. The diagnosis and treatment of seasonal or severe depressive episodes is established however with professionals.

Light therapy can supplement or replace anti-depressants

The team of French researchers conducted a meta-analysis, selecting studies comparing light therapy and antidepressants, and were able to analyze seven trials representing 397 patients suffering from a moderate to severe depressive episode, according to The world.

They conclude that antidepressants are not superior to light therapy, and that the combination of the two therapies is more effective than antidepressant alone for other types of depression than seasonal depression. The daily reports that if the treatment of depression lasts 6 months on average with antidepressants, it would last from eight to ten weeks with light therapy.

"In the context of non-severe depression, antidepressants or light therapy may be offered as first-line therapy, depending on the patient's preferences, profile and tolerance to the drugs. from the outset, to achieve a faster effect than antidepressants alone, "says psychiatrist and sleep physician Pierre Alexis Geoffroy at World.

While this treatment option may seem less invasive and preferable for some patients, the psychiatrist specifies that light therapy and the treatment of a depressive episode must be done in agreement with his doctor, using lamps classified "medical device", which This is not the case for all commercialized lamps. Other non-pharmacological treatments were recommended by the Haute Autorité de Santé in October 2017, such as mindfulness meditation or yoga.


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