Methodological challenges in studies of bright light therapy to treat sleep disorders in nursing home residents with dementia

Eva Simone van der Ploeg, Daniel William O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


AIM: Numerous studies have explored the effectiveness of bright light therapy as a treatment of sleep disorders in nursing home and long-stay geriatric hospital residents, most of whom have dementia. A recent Cochrane Collaboration meta-analysis of 10 selected studies concluded that there was insufficient evidence to assess its therapeutic efficacy as most available studies had methodological problems. We sought to remedy this situation by developing proposals to guide research methods in future studies. METHODS: Based on the literature and our own clinical and research experience, we developed a series of proposals relating to study design, participant selection, light delivery modalities and outcome measures that we believe will maximize the chances of identifying a bright light treatment effect. We then checked adherence to these proposals in all relevant published experimental studies. RESULTS: Of the 18 studies published in the last two decades that met our selection criteria, only half the studies had selected participants with a sleep disorder. Eleven studies excluded people with severe vision loss; seven included a clinical rating of sleep, and five measured baseline lighting levels. Most checked psychoactive medication prescriptions but few reported changes in prescriptions over the course of the study. Most also checked treatment adherence and included some control for differences in amount of social contact. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence for the effectiveness of bright white light treatment in people residing in nursing homes is equivocal. We anticipate that the quality of this evidence will be improved if researchers refine their study methods and adopt a more uniform approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777 - 784
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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