A reader asks:

Do light goggles or light therapy glasses work?


Head-mounted light therapy devices have been around for many years, the first by the same investigators who developed light box therapy for seasonal affective disorder at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In a multicenter U.S./Canada clinical trial, patients with SAD improved no differently on bright, “active” light or dim “placebo” light. Over the years, several other university labs and lighting companies have designed and promoted head- or eyeglass-mounted devices, on the assumed advantage that users would prefer to move around while taking light therapy for depression, even with sessions of 30 minutes, as with 10,000 lux light therapy. Other proposed uses have been for delayed sleep phase and jet lag, but there have been no clinical trials matching the rigorous model of the original NIMH study.

CET is waiting to see clear, positive results from multicenter, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trials, including ratings of tolerability for long-term use and comprehensive analysis of ophthalmologic and other physical side effects, before recommending any such device. It is important to recognize a potential downside to the ambulatory designs: The incident illumination is invariant with head movement, unlike the experience of outdoor illumination or light box therapy, and our eyes have evolved to receive stimulation under dynamically variable light exposure.