Background: Morning light exposure administered as simulated dawn looks a promising method to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it may moreover help with resetting the inaccurate organisation of body clock functions relative to sleep occurring in winter among people in general. Disturbances in sleep patterns are common and may compromise wellbeing even in the short term. Our hypothesis was that simulated dawn could improve the subjective quality of sleep during winter.
Methods: A community-based trial with 100 volunteer subjects provided with dawn simulators. Study period lasted for eight weeks, and subjects used the dawn simulators for two weeks at a time, each subject acting as his own control (ABAB-design). Main outcome measure was subjective quality of sleep recorded each morning with Groningen Sleep Quality Scale.
Results: 77 subjects completed the trial. Quality of sleep improved while subjects were using dawn simulator-devices (p = 0.001). The treatment became beneficial after six days' use of dawn simulator, but the effect did not last after the use was ceased.
Conclusion: Dawn simulation may help to improve the subjective quality of sleep, but the benefits are modest. Further research is needed to verify these findings and to elucidate the mechanism by which dawn simulation acts on the sleep-wake pattern.