LIGHTING TIP + NEW VIDEOS:
Light therapy for Alzheimer’s increases sleep quality, efficiency and duration, according to an important study. 4 weeks of light therapy also significantly reduced depression and agitation. Learn how.
A key study offers an easy-to-do care tip. Research suggests that light treatment, tailored to increase circadian stimulation during the day, may improve sleep, depression and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia.
Light is Simple, Inexpensive, Non-pharmacological
Results show that exposure to the tailored light treatment during daytime hours for four weeks significantly increased sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep duration. It also significantly reduced scores for depression and agitation.
Boosting Daytime Light Levels
“It is a simple, inexpensive, non-pharmacological treatment to improve sleep and behavior in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients,” said principal investigator Mariana Figueiro, PhD, associate professor and Light and Health program director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. “The improvements we saw in agitation and depression were very impressive.”
Therapy lights are easy to find at places such as:
- Your local lighting store
- Home Depot
Amazon.com offers a variety of bright therapy lights
There are many ways to boost light levels during waking hours in order to correct changes in the circadian rhythm of people with Alzheimer’s. The following video illustrates state-of-the-art LED lighting for the home. A discussion of the Alzheimer’s / Sleep / Lighting study continues below the video.
Dr. Figueiro’s research abstract was published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and was presented in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.
Light Exposure During the Day
The pilot study involved 14 nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. A light source producing low levels of 300 to 400 lux of a bluish-white light with a color temperature of more than 9000 K was installed in the residents’ rooms. Light exposure occurred during daytime hours for a period of four weeks. Light-dark and activity-rest patterns were collected using a calibrated instrument prior to and after the lighting intervention. Measures of sleep quality, depression and agitation also were collected using standardized questionnaires.
Figueiro added that the improvement in sleep quality also was associated with other noticeable behavioral changes.
“Subjective reports by the nursing staff were that the patients were calmer, eating better and their overall behavior was more manageable,” she said.
Second Sleep & Lighting Study
A second “Tailored Lighting Intervention for Alzheimer’s and Sleep” study confirmed these results. While all measures improved, the most significant improvement was seen in sleep quality.
“Here we show that if the stimulus (light dose) is carefully delivered and measured, it can have a strong impact on sleep, depression and agitation,” said Dr. Figueiro. “Depression was a secondary measure, and I was pleasantly surprised by the positive impact of the light treatment on depression scores.”
The study involved 43 subjects diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias who were exposed to an active and inactive tailored lighting intervention for successive 4-week periods, spaced by a 4-week washout period. The lighting intervention was added to spaces in which patients spent most of their waking hours and was energized from wake time until 6 p.m. Calibrated personal light meters monitored exposures. Measures of sleep disturbances (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), mood (Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia) and agitation (Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Index) were collected at baseline and during the last week of the intervention.
Tailored Lighting Intervention For Alzheimer’s Patients And Its Effects On Sleep, Mood And Agitation
M G Figueiro, M Kalsher, B Plitnick, C Rohan, M S Rea.
Sleep, Volume 41, Issue suppl_1, 27 April 2018, Pages A113–A114, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy061.294
American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) improves sleep health and promotes high quality patient centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards. With about 9,000 members, the AASM is the largest professional membership society for physicians, scientists and other health care providers dedicated to sleep medicine. For more information, visit http://www.aasmnet.org.
- The research was supported by funding from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).