Sleep Quality during Alcohol Withdrawal with Bright Light Therapy

1. Alcohol withdrawal is a complex syndrome that ranges from anxiety, insomnia to delirium tremens. Common treatment is the application of sedative medication. Exposure to bright light in the daytime should advance the normal sleep/wake cycle and moreover it should improve the availability of man’s adaptive behavior during alcohol withdrawal.

2. This pilot study describes bright light therapy (BL) during alcohol withdrawal in ten alcohol dependent patients (DSM-III-R: 291.80) without any sedative medication. BL (3000 Lux) was administered on day 3 of abstinence between 7.00-9.00 a.m. and 5.00-9.00 p.m. Total-sleep-polysomnography (recordings between 10.30 p.m.-6.00 a.m.) and self-rating scale were performed to compare intra-individual changes during three nights. After one adaptation night (immediately after alcohol withdrawal), one baseline night and one “BL-night” and one “post-BL night” were analysed.

3. At baseline, total sleep time and sleep efficiency were severely deteriorated, but tended to improve in the following nights after BL. Sleep onset latency showed a significant decline after BL. Stages 3 and 4 were reduced at baseline. Latencies to slow wave sleep were significantly shortened after BL. REM increased in the nights after BL. Subjective sleep quality improved after BL. Although the present results, bright light having a possible stabilizing effect on sleep maintenance and sleep architecture during acute alcohol withdrawal, the authors could only derive hypotheses for further ongoing controlled investigations using placebo light, to receive final verification.

Schmitz M; Frey R; Pichler P; R”pke H; Anderer P; Saletu B; Rudas S. Sleep quality during alcohol withdrawal with bright light therapy. Department of Quality Assurance, Kuratorium fAur Psychosoziale Dienste, Vienna, Austria. Progress in Neuropsychopharmacol Biological Psychiatry, 1997 Aug, 21:6, 965-77.

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