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Bright Light Therapy Benefits New Moms

Bright light therapy may improve a mother’s nocturnal sleep, decrease daytime sleepiness and be beneficial to her well-being, according to a study presented at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Shih-Yu Lee, PhD, of Georgia State University, focused on 16 first-time mothers with a low birth weight infant hospitalized in the intensive care unit. The subjects were randomly assigned to two groups: the treatment group mothers received a 10,000 lux bright light therapy for four weeks and the control group mothers received a placebo dim light therapy. Total sleep time during the day and night was then measured.

The results showed that the post-treatment average nocturnal total sleep time increased from 6.38 hours to 7.07 hours for the treatment group mothers. However, the total sleep time in the control group mothers worsened from 6.88 hours to 6.22 hours. Perhaps more importantly, after the four-week intervention, the treatment group mothers’ daytime total sleep time decreased from 114 to 39 minutes.

“Having a low birth weight infant in the ICU can intensify sleep disturbances for mothers because of extended periods of exposure to the artificial dim light in the ICU and stress related to the infant’s medical condition,” said Dr. Lee. “Impaired sleep may have negative impact on the mother’s well-being. In our research, we were looking for an intervention to help mothers that would be feasible for them to use even when their infant is hospitalized. The preliminary findings from our pilot study indicate that bright light therapy given through use of the special visor may improve mothers’ nocturnal sleep, decrease daytime sleepiness, and be beneficial to their well-being. While our results are promising, a larger scale randomized clinical trial is needed to establish if this would be an effective therapy in this population.”

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