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How Lighting Can Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s Sleep Better

By Jonathan Wells, 9:00 am on

Difficulty sleeping is a common problem for seniors with Alzheimer’s as the disease interrupts the circadian rhythm. Many people with Alzheimer’s experience sleep disturbances with significantly less REM sleep at night. According to a new study, light therapy designed to increase circadian stimulation during the day can help Alzheimer’s patients sleep better at night.

Researchers with the Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute completed a study to determine the effects of shortwave blue light on the sleep patterns of people with dementia based on previous research that found increased light exposure during the day could readjust the circadian rhythms of people with Alzheimer’s.

The study found that exposure to a bluish-white light source during the day for a month was able to significantly improve sleep quality and efficiency, reduce depression and agitation, and increase total sleep time for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Mariana Figuerio, an associate professor and program director of the research center, called the improvements “very impressive.”

To study the effect of blue lights on people with Alzheimer’s, researchers placed a table radiating blue light in a nursing home. Two women who were not sleeping during the night sat at the table and, after one month, were sleeping through the night.

Researchers believe blue light stimulates the circadian rhythm to wake up and regulate the body’s internal clock, possibly by simulating a blue sky during the day. Exposing seniors with Alzheimer’s to blue lighting for two hours before sleep can be an effective tool for managing insomnia and irritation.

The results of the study can benefit not only seniors living in long-term care facilities, but those living at home and receiving elder home care in Douglas County. According to the researchers, moving seniors to a room with more light and bringing blue light to them at night can do wonders for improving mood and the sleep-wake cycle.

Being the primary caregiver for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be challenging, especially if he or she is prone to insomnia or wandering. If you could use help meeting your loved one’s care needs, call Home Care Assistance at 720-287-1685. We provide comprehensive dementia and Alzheimer’s home care in Douglas County, including help with everyday tasks, medication reminders, and around-the-clock safety monitoring. Reach out today. We’re here to help.