Light therapy for dementia? Does it work?

Hey there Careblazer, 


I think we can all agree sleep is important. We all know that tired, confused, sometimes even nauseous feeling that comes with not getting enough sleep and, as you probably guessed, sleep is particularly important for your LOWD BUT do you know the impact that light can have on sleep?


Today I want to spend some time talking about some of the facts about sleep and dementia and the research on the importance of light to sleep. 


If you would rather watch a video on this topic, click here. 


Let’s start with some basic facts about sleep:

About half of older adults and approximately 60-70% of people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia experience some form of sleep disturbance. This means the odds are your LOWD falls into this category. 

Various studies have shown that when an individual with dementia has problems with their sleep they are more likely to have more severe thinking problems, greater mood disturbance, and poorer quality of life. 

New studies have begun to examine the impact of even short term sleep disturbance on an individual with dementia’s functioning the next day. With some results indicating that the length of time asleep and whether or not that sleep was disrupted can impact their level of alertness, how content they are, memory errors, and behavior with less sleep and more disruptions leading to poorer outcomes.  


So you may be wondering, “how does light impact sleep?”

Light has a big impact on our body’s circadian rhythm, which is our internal clock that tells us what time of day it is- essentially when to be awake and when to sleep. Research has shown that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease do not generally get as much exposure to bright lights, such as sunlight, during the day compared to healthy older adults. Yet there have been many studies that have shown that when individuals with dementia are exposed to certain levels of light they tend to sleep longer at night, sleep less during the day, and have less night time activity. Not only that but studies have shown improvements in agitation as well. 


Exposing your LOWD to natural light in the morning and allowing for lights to be dim but still bright enough to avoid tripping hazards at night can help your LOWD regulate their internal clock and improve their sleep. Several studies have also shown that exposure to sunlight can help to reduce sundowning. 


Also, Careblazer, let’s not forget how exposure to sunlight can help you! Sunlight helps your body to release certain hormones in your brain which make you feel calm and more focused, something I think we could all agree we would like to feel more of! Let’s also not forget that if you LOWD is sleeping better, there is a good chance that this means you will also be able to get more sleep. 


So, Careblazer, take a few minutes to think about your day and let me know in the comments below how you plan to add sunlight to your routine with your LOWD and, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out my video on the importance of Vitamin N here.


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