Light Therapy May Reduce Depression in Concussion Victims

If you suffer from insomnia, it may help you, too.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
March 13, 2020

Before my mother had a severe concussion several years ago, I never really considered the impact of brain injuries on your mental well-being. Right after her accident, things were pretty normal; she was hopeful that she’d recover. But when months, then years passed and she still had a hard time remembering things or recalling words, her chronic depression worsened. In a sense, she was grieving the loss of her former self. Even though I made sure she got medical care and support, her fog of depression was difficult to lift. So when I saw new research from the American Academy of Neurology on a potential treatment for depression in people who’ve suffered concussions, I was interested in learning more.

The research, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 72nd Annual Meeting in April, found that study participants with mild traumatic brain injuries who were exposed to blue light therapy in the early morning saw reduce symptoms of depression and concussion, including sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, restlessness, and irritability.

“Patients with mild traumatic brain injury, like concussion, often develop persistent problems associated with sleep, concentration and depression,” study author William D. Killgore, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, said in a statement. “Morning blue light exposure has been shown to lead to improved circadian rhythm of the body’s sleep-wake cycle, which is linked to improved sleep, better mood and daytime alertness.”

Though the sample size of participants was small (35 people) and not all had official diagnoses of clinical depression, the findings are a good first step towards determining whether blue light therapy could be an effective treatment for depression — for people with and without brain injuries.

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

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This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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