Sleep disturbances are a common problem in people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in sleep/wake patterns appear early on in the disease and become more disruptive as the illness progresses. Recent research on light therapies, however, suggests that a viable solution for nighttime wakefulness and fitful sleeping during the day may be in sight.
Resetting the Biological Clock
Sleep and wakeful periods in healthy humans are regulated by circadian rhythms, an internal biological clock located in the brain. Circadian rhythms take cues from the environment to trigger periods of wakefulness and sleep. Studies show that lighting can be used to alter circadian rhythms, providing that the light is applied in the right spectrum at the right time. For example, the body’s core temperature typically drops to its lowest point around two hours before waking. Providing bright light before this period has been shown to reset the biological clock to wake later the next day.
A 24-Hour Lighting Scheme
A review of existing light therapy studies conducted by architectural engineer Mariana Figueiro suggests that a lighting scheme with different levels of illumination might beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients. The proposed 24-hour scheme would include two hours of soft illumination from LED lights early in the evening combined with bright lights during the day. Nightlights would be included to prevent falls during the night.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
The loss of restful sleep that occurs with Alzheimer’s not only has a negative impact on the patient’s health but on the wellbeing of the caregiver too. In fact, experts cite lack of sleep consolidation as one of the main reasons why Alzheimer’s caregivers make the decision to have a loved one moved to a home. While the subject requires further research, lighting schemes that are timed to deliver a regular light/dark pattern may help Alzheimer’s patients sleep better and stay in their homes longer, which can also provide much needed peace of mind for family members as well.
Being the primary caregiver for an elderly relative with AD can be challenging. Find the additional support and resources both you and your senior loved one need by reaching out to Home Care Assistance at (614) 481-8888. As a trusted elderly home care agency in Columbus, we can ensure your loved one has comprehensive help at home while you enjoy time to yourself to rest or relax. Call us today. We are here to help.