Background: Recent findings suggest that extended bed rest and darkness could stabilize mood swings in rapid cycling bipolar patients.
Method: We exposed 16 bipolar inpatients affected by a manic episode to a regimen of 14 h of enforced darkness from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. each night for three consecutive days [dark therapy (DT)]. Pattern of mood changes were recorded with the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and compared with a control group of 16 inpatients matched for age, sex, age at onset, number of previous illness episodes and duration of current episode, and were treated with therapy as usual (TAU).
Results: Adding DT to TAU resulted in a significantly faster decrease of YMRS scores when patients were treated within 2 weeks from the onset of the current manic episode. When duration of current episode was longer, DT had no effect. Follow-up confirmed that good responders needed a lower dose of antimanic drugs and were discharged earlier from the hospital.
Conclusions: Chronobiological interventions and control of environmental stimuli can be a useful add-on for the treatment of acute mania in a hospital setting.