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Light Therapy May Improve Sleep, Mood and Behavior in People with Alzheimer's

Recent studies have found that light therapy may be beneficial for memory care patients

Sleep disturbances are common in people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, leading to a negative influence on the daytime function of the affected person and on the wellbeing of caregivers. The sleep/wake routine is directly controlled by the synchronizing signals generated by the circadian pacemaker, which might or might not be absolutely functioning in people with Alzheimer’s. A 24 hour light/dark pattern episode on the retina is the most efficacious stimulus for entraining the circadian system in the day. A cautiously orchestrated light/dark routine has been proven in several controlled studies of elderly populations, with and without Alzheimer’s, to be a strong nonpharmacological tool to improve sleep efficiency and consolidation.

Discussed here are research results in studies looking at the efficacy of light therapy in improving sleep, depression, and excitement in elderly adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia. A 24 hour light strategy used to increase circadian entrainment, improve visibility, and reduce the possibility of falls in people with Alzheimer’s has been proposed, and future research needs are being discussed. Behavioral symptoms like disturbed sleep-wake patterns, nocturnal wandering, agitation, and verbal or physical abuse are among the very numerous reasons why people with Alzheimer’s disease transition into more controlled environments. Abnormal sleep patterns have a tendency to increase progression and therefore are associated with disturbed sleep, and aggressive behavior throughout the daytime.

Clinical research shows that light therapy can consolidate the rest and action models in people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Nonetheless, bright light exposure throughout the daytime has been proven to improve nighttime sleep, increase daytime wakefulness, reduce day agitation behavior, and consolidate rest/activity patterns of individuals with Alzheimer’s. Controlled white light exposure has improved sleep efficiency and knowledge in people with Alzheimer’s disease along with reduced signs of depression. Dawn simulation, a light system that adequately mitigates light amounts in accordance with the time of day, had a success in a three-week trial. Evening light exposure has also been shown to be efficient in consolidating rest/activity rhythms of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and assisting them to get better sleep through the night.

Due to this, research continues to be aimed at treating symptoms with non-pharmacological options resulting in a low chance of side effects. Sleep disturbances are among the common neurobehavioral signs of Alzheimer’s disease. An increased tendency to fall asleep throughout the daytime, together with increased vigilance throughout the night was demonstrated in patients with advanced, but additionally moderate to medium dementia. Research evaluates that memory care patients will invest about 40 percent of their night awake and a large part of the day asleep. Sleep disturbances eventually become too burdensome for familial care providers and are the main cause of people entering memory care facilities.

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For more information about memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes, please call our office at (316) 444-0532.

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