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Dawn simulation

Dawn simulation is a technique used in the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as winter depression. Typically, the treatment involves timing lights in the bedroom to come on gradually, over a period of 30 minutes to 2 hours, before awakening.

Additional recommended knowledge



Dawn simulation was developed in the 1980s at Columbia University following a long line of basic laboratory research that showed animals' circadian rhythms to be exquisitely sensitive to the dim, gradually rising dawn signal at the end of the night.

Clinical Use

There are two types of dawn that have been used effectively in a clinical setting: a naturalistic dawn mimicking a springtime sunrise (but used in mid-winter when it is still dark outside), and a "sigmoidal"-shaped dawn (30 minutes to 2 hours). When used successfully, patients are able to sleep through the dawn and wake up easily at the simulated sunrise, after which the day's treatment is over. The theory behind dawn simulation is based on the fact that early morning light signals are much more effective at advancing the biological clock than are light signals given at other times of day (see Phase response curve).[citation needed]

Comparison with Bright Light Therapy

Dawn simulation generally uses light sources that range in illuminance from 100 to 300 lux, while bright light boxes are usually in the 10,000 lux range. Approximately 19% of patients discontinue post-awakening bright light therapy due to inconvenience. Because the entire treatment is complete before awakening, dawn simulation may be a more convenient alternative to post-awakening bright light therapy. In terms of efficacy, some studies have shown dawn simulation to be more effective than standard bright light therapy while others have shown no difference or shown that bright light therapy is superior.[1][2] Some patients with SAD use both dawn simulation and bright light therapy to provide maximum energy at the start of the day.

Other Uses

In an elaboration of the method, patients have also been presented with a dim dusk signal at bedtime, with indications that it eases sleep onset. In addition, the technique has been used clinically with patients who suffer from Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, helping them to awaken earlier in gradual steps, as the simulated dawn is moved earlier.

See also


  1. ^ Terman M, Terman JS (2006) Controlled trial of naturalistic dawn simulation and negative air ionization for seasonal affective disorder. Amer J Psychiatry. 163:2126-2133.
  2. ^ Avery DH et al. (2001) Dawn simulation and bright light in the treatment of SAD: a controlled study. Biol Psychiatry. 50:205–16.
  • Terman M et al. (1989) Dawn and dusk simulation as a therapeutic intervention. Biol Psychiatry. 25:966-970.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dawn_simulation". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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