Light Therapy May Help Patients with Cancer Sleep Better

Laurie Toich, Associate Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, January 31st, 2018
When it comes to sleep quality, patients undergoing cancer treatment may benefit from bright light therapy, according to a recently-published study. Sleep disturbances occur at a much higher rate for patients with cancer compared with the general population, with approximately 23% to 44% of patients with cancer experiencing insomnia.

The study, published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicinedemonstrates that the mean efficiency improved to normal levels among patients administered bright light therapy. The difference was found to be statistically significant and sustained for 3 weeks. Included in the new study were 44 patients who had completed cancer treatment and experienced fatigue. Patients were randomized to receive either bright white light or dim light therapy administered through a light box each morning for 30 minutes over 4 weeks.

"In a pilot study, a systematic light exposure intervention with a mixed group of fatigued cancer survivors was significantly more effective than comparison dim light exposure in improving sleep efficiency," said lead author Lisa M. Wu, PhD.
The authors evaluated sleep quality using wrist actigraphy and the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, according to the study.
Although patients in the bright light therapy cohort had improved sleep, patients who were exposed to dim light therapy remained at low sleep efficiency levels, according to the study.
The authors also found that bright light therapy resulted in positive effects on self-reported sleep quality, sleep time, and time awake.
The results of the study suggest that bright light therapy may help patients with cancer sleep better and reduce fatigue, according to the authors.
The authors added that large scale clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of bright light therapy for sleep disturbances for patients who have cancer, according to the study. 

"Systematic light exposure using bright white light is a low-cost and easily disseminated intervention that offers a feasible and potentially effective alternative to improve sleep in cancer survivors," Dr Wu said.

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