Dawn simulators are a useful tool in the treatment of SAD reports Lumie

Dawn simulators have a valuable role to play in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) according to the latest research led by medical researcher Dr Konstantin Danilenko in collaboration with Lumie, the Cambridge-based light therapy specialist. The research is published by the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Previous research comparing the efficacy of dawn simulation to conventional bright light for the treatment of SAD has yielded conflicting results. Dr Danilenko’s crossover study using Lumie lights investigated further both treatment outcomes and long-term treatment preference.


Forty winter depressives who experience mild to moderate depression were treated for a week with either Lumie Arabica, a bright light box, for 30–45 min shortly after awakening (4,300 lux at 41 cms), or Lumie Bodyclock Starter, a dawn simulator or wake-up light that provides a gradually increasing light during the last 30 min of sleep (100 lux at 50 cms).

Depression scores reduced similarly following bright light and dawn simulation: by 43.8% and 42.2% (medians), respectively with an efficacy ratio of 23:17. The preference ratio for the two methods of treatment was also similar (21:19).

Among those who preferred the bright light, the most common reasons given were that they perceived the bright light to be more effective (19 out of 21 users) and found it easier to use (6 out of 21 users). This subgroup tended to include the ones suffering from the worst depression among the group. Among those who preferred the dawn simulator, the reasons given were a preference for the more ‘natural’ effect (9/19), device compactness and/or time-saving (10/19) and in 4 cases where bright light caused eyestrain.

“This study confirms the efficacy of using a dawn simulator such as Lumie Bodyclock Starter for treating SAD as an alternative to bright light therapy. Preference for one type of treatment or the other is roughly equal although those with moderate depression tend to prefer bright light therapy.” Dr Konstantin Danilenko, Vice-Director of scientific and clinical research at the Institute of Physiology and Basic Medicine in Nobosivirsk, Siberia, Russia.

“This is a valuable study and SADA welcomes its addition to the field of SAD research. The primary conclusion that we see from the study is: ‘Bright light was preferred for long-term therapy since patients seemed to feel stronger/faster positive effects and found a light box simple to set up. Dawn simulation was preferred for a more soft, ‘natural’ action, for device compactness and/or time-saving, and in [a small number of] cases where bright light caused eyestrain. Indeed, treatment preference was found to be a significant factor for treatment effect.

We also note that the study excluded patients who were on any kind of antidepressant medication, thus likely excluding many more severe or extreme cases. This aligns with our view that traditional light boxes are proven and effective for full-blown SAD, but that dawn simulators are a valuable addition to treatment options, particularly for people with less extreme symptoms or who find them more convenient.” Jenny Scott-Thompson, spokesperson for The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA).

““This study clearly shows that a dawn simulator like Lumie Bodyclock Starter is similarly effective to a bright light in treating SAD. A serious SAD sufferer may still want to use a powerful light box like Lumie Arabica but ideally a dawn simulator should also be included in the treatment plan.” Jonathan Cridland, CEO, Lumie.

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