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Bright Light Eases Dementia Symptoms

Armen Hareyan's picture

Extra bright light eases dementia symptoms, corrects sleep-wake cycle disruption.

Dementia patients are often suffering from sleep-wake cycle disruption because of biological clock disruption. Relatives taking care of dementia patients are coping with lots of symptoms of these patients, but sleep schedule disruption is a very difficult symptoms.

Sleep schedule disruption is the most common reason relatives taking dementia patients to care homes. If this symptom is excluded, dementia sufferers will have more chances to stay longer at home.

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A team of scientists from Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in Amsterdam examined 189 residents of 12 care homes. 87% of the residents suffered from dementia. 6 of them were regularly turning bright daylight on from 9am to 6pm. Some home-care patients also received 2.5 milligrams of melatonin dose - a natural hormone affecting circadian rhythm.

These patients were monitored from 1 to 3.5 years and showed significant improvement thanks to daylight. Those with various forms of dementia, who took melatonin and no extra lighting, showed improvement in sleeping habits, but still reported problems in mood and felt more withdrawn. Those who had both melatonin and bright light together showed significant improvement in both mood and sleeping habits. Those who had extra light only showed 5% improvement in cognitive impairment, 19% improvement in depression, and 53% improvement in functional limitations.

Researchers mention that 5% improvement is not significant, but when comparing the cost of installing an extra light in homes and absence of adverse side effects of the treatment with the results, it becomes clear that the method is very effective.

The combination of bright light and daily melatonin intake is a cheap and effective way to improve dementia symptoms and keep them longer at home, with the family. Since there are other diseases affecting circadian rhythm, researchers urge the need of further researches to see if extra light can improve sleeping habits for other patients as well.