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Kaplan, K. A., Mashash, M., Williams, R., Batchelder, H., Starr-Glass, L., & Zeitzer, J. M. (2019). Effect of Light Flashes vs Sham Therapy During Sleep With Adjunct Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Sleep Quality Among Adolescents: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open, 2(9), e1911944.
Abstract: Importance: Owing to biological, behavioral, and societal factors, sleep duration in teenagers is often severely truncated, leading to pervasive sleep deprivation. Objective: To determine whether a novel intervention, using both light exposure during sleep and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), would increase total sleep time in teenagers by enabling them to go to sleep earlier than usual. Design, Setting, and Participants: This double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial, conducted between November 1, 2013, and May 31, 2016, among 102 adolescents enrolled full-time in grades 9 to 12, who expressed difficulty going to bed earlier and waking up early enough, was composed of 2 phases. In phase 1, participants were assigned to receive either 3 weeks of light or sham therapy and were asked to try to go to sleep earlier. In phase 2, participants received 4 brief CBT sessions in addition to a modified light or sham therapy. All analyses were performed on an intent-to-treat basis. Interventions: Light therapy consisted of receiving a 3-millisecond light flash every 20 seconds during the final 3 hours of sleep (phase 1) or final 2 hours of sleep (phase 2). Sham therapy used an identical device, but delivered 1 minute of light pulses (appearing in 20-second intervals, for a total of 3 pulses) per hour during the final 3 hours of sleep (phase 1) or 2 hours of sleep (phase 2). Light therapy occurred every night during the 4-week intervention. Cognitive behavioral therapy consisted of four 50-minute in-person sessions once per week. Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome measures included diary-based sleep times, momentary ratings of evening sleepiness, and subjective measures of sleepiness and sleep quality. Results: Among the 102 participants (54 female [52.9%]; mean [SD] age, 15.6 [1.1] years), 72 were enrolled in phase 1 and 30 were enrolled in phase 2. Mixed-effects models revealed that light therapy alone was inadequate in changing the timing of sleep. However, compared with sham therapy plus CBT alone, light therapy plus CBT significantly moved sleep onset a mean (SD) of 50.1 (27.5) minutes earlier and increased nightly total sleep time by a mean (SD) of 43.3 (35.0) minutes. Light therapy plus CBT also resulted in a 7-fold greater increase in bedtime compliance than that observed among participants receiving sham plus CBT (mean [SD], 2.21 [3.91] vs 0.29 [0.76]), as well as a mean 0.55-point increase in subjective evening sleepiness as compared with a mean 0.48-point decrease in participants receiving sham plus CBT as measured on a 7-point sleepiness scale. Conclusions and Relevance: This study found that light exposure during sleep, in combination with a brief, motivation-focused CBT intervention, was able to consistently move bedtimes earlier and increase total sleep time in teenagers. This type of passive light intervention in teenagers may lead to novel therapeutic applications. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01406691.