cancer fatigue depression illustration

Cancer survivors suffer from sleep problems and fatigue. Bright light therapy improves sleep problems and fatigue. Do we have a match here?

In a 2018 study, two groups of lung cancer survivors received either bright light therapy or placebo. For one week, the experimental group spent every morning sitting in front of a therapeutic lamp while the control group was only exposed to low intensity, long-wave, inefficient light. The participants did not have any psychiatric problems except for insomnia and fatigue.

In the bright light group, sleep improved and fatigue decreased after only a week. To have an idea of how large the effect was, imagine participants in both groups scoring 9.8 on a scale of sleep problems. After the treatment, the participants receiving bright light therapy scored 6.3 while the control group maintained an average score of about 8.8.

“One week of morning BLT was sufficient to reduce fatigue and improve sleep quality. There was noticeable improvement in fatigue on the experimental group during the intervention and they sustained lower fatigue levels post-intervention,” the authors concluded.

Weiss, C; Dickerson, S; Dubocovich, M L; Dean, G E. (2018). Bright Light Therapy To Reduce Fatigue And Improve Sleep Quality In Lung Cancer Survivors. Sleep, suppl. S1; Westchester Vol. 41,  (Apr 2018): A239 – A239.

Take-away message:

Phototherapy helped people suffering with fatigue and sleep problems following successful treatment of lung cancer. The problems did not disappear but were reduced significantly.

Although we cannot take anything for granted based on findings of a single study, together with all the other evidence about phototherapy being helpful in sleep problems and fatigue, we can tentatively conclude that light therapy seems to be recommendable in cancer survivors suffering with insomnia and fatigue as well.