Light treatment can improve depression in Alzheimer's sufferers

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Light treatment tailored to increase circadian stimulation during the day may improve sleep, depression and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. Exposure to the tailored light treatment during daytime hours for four weeks significantly increased sleep quality, efficiency and total sleep duration. Scores for depression and agitation were also reduced in testing.

Simple, cheap and effective

“It is a simple, inexpensive, non-pharmacological treatment to improve sleep and behavior in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients,” explained principal investigator Mariana Figueiro, PhD, associate professor and Light and Health program director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NT. “The improvements we saw in agitation and depression were very impressive.”

Lights were installed in the patients’ rooms

The pilot study included 14 nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. The light source produced low levels of bluish-white light with a color temperature of more than 9000k and was installed in their rooms. The lights were used for a period of four weeks during daylight hours. Data about light-dark, activity-rest patterns was collected prior to and after exposure to the light therapy. Sleep quality, depression and agitation measurements were also collected using standardized questionnaires.

Subjective reports also favorable

“Subjective reports by the nursing staff were that the patients were calmer, eating better and their overall behavior was more manageable,” she noted. Improvement in sleep quality was associated with other noticeable behavioral changes as well. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting five million Americans and projected to grow dramatically in the next few decades. Treatments like this could go a long way to helping those who suffer with the condition.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Sleep

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