Using bright light therapy to counter symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), characterized by a general memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior, is a commonly occurring mental disorder mostly found in people aged 65 years or older. Its symptoms develop over a period of time and eventually start interfering with daily activities.

Various researches are being conducted to develop some effective way of dealing with the AD. One such therapy uses bright light to help Alzheimer’s patients get rid of certain devastating symptoms of the disease. The therapy has many benefits on an Alzheimer’s patient, but its impact on his sleep pattern can help synchronize the body clock, thereby ensuring the synchronization of the mental and behavioral rhythms with the external environment.

Bright light therapy used as complimentary therapy for AD patients

Scientists have recently seen bright light therapy as a potential complimentary treatment for AD and other types of dementia due to its significant beneficial effects and no side effects or interactions, unlike medications. During the therapy, a patient is exposed to light that is five to 30 times brighter and more radiant than normal lights. The patient is allowed to sit in front of the light, emanating from a box with a screen, for a specific length of time every day.

An AD patient can use bright light therapy to achieve the following benefits:

  • Improvement in sleep cycles: A 2013 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggested that light therapy can help improve sleep patterns in AD patients by consolidating their circadian rhythms. Though the researchers could not estimate the exact amount of light needed to stimulate the circadian system of AD patients, it definitely reduced the risk of fall found in elderly AD patients who tend to wake up in the middle of the night and are three times more likely to experience a fall under little or no light.

Another study demonstrated that exposure to bright light greatly improved sleep cycles of people suffering from dementia, but when the light was combined with melatonin, no such effect could be observed.

  • Reduction in wandering habit: Bright light therapy can prevent patients of dementia from wandering during night. Since wandering habit of AD patients poses significant safety concerns and disturbs the sleep pattern of patients and their caregivers, use of light therapy can help reduce serious outcomes of such night-time strolls, improving stability and control.
  • Improvement in cognitive abilities: Patients who receive bright light therapy have been found to perform better in an Alzheimer’s screening test that is used to measure cognitive ability, known as Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), as compared to patients exposed to dim light.
  • Improvement in behavior and control: Many patients of dementia have been found to show improvements in their problematic behavior following exposure to bright light. The therapy helps AD patients feel less agitated and eliminates symptoms of depression.

Bright light therapy has numerous applications for patients suffering from AD, provided it is given by a certified medical practitioner. Light therapy, in combination with physical exercise, such as walking, offers wide range of benefits in terms of improved attention, memory and orientation.

Road to recovery

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), nearly 5.1 million Americans are afflicted with AD. Though complete recovery from dementia or Alzheimer’s may be difficult, the use of innovative treatment strategies can help regain the decline in physical and cognitive abilities.

If a loved one is suffering from a dementia or a mood disorder, the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can provide the necessary information about various mental health services available in your vicinity. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online for further expert advice on various mental health facilities in the U.S.