Americans aged 65 and over have higher rates of chronic insomnia and poorer sleep quality than any other age demographic—with as many as 50% of elder individuals reporting sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorders among the elderly include “sleeping early, waking up early, a decrease in sleep duration, taking longer to fall asleep, frequently waking up at night, and sleeping in the daytime” (Akyar & Akdemir 2014). Many of these the problems results from our bodies’ decreased production of the sleep hormone melatonin as we age.
This natural decline in melatonin is often exacerbated by the sedentary, indoor lifestyles of many elderly individuals, factors that further contribute to circadian disturbances. Circadian sleep patterns are primarily regulated by exposure to bright light in the morning and the recession of light in the evening. However, many elderly individuals live in care facilities with unnaturally constant lighting throughout the day and evening. Many studies have suggested morning application of bright light therapy as a means of regulating the sleep patterns of those in elder care facilities.
A new study published in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing concludes that bright light therapy is a safe and effective means of improving sleep quality of elder individuals in nursing homes. In the study, twenty-four older adults who reported poor sleep quality were treated with a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp Review for a half hour each morning over the period of one month.
At the end of the study, global sleep quality scores (as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality
Index) were found to be significantly higher than the pre-intervention scores. The scores for ‘daytime dysfunction’ and ‘sleep latency’ (time to fall asleep) saw the most improvement from the light therapy intervention.
The study concludes: “light therapy has, after continuous four-week half-hour 10,000 Lux interventions and at a four-week follow-up, an impact on the global sleep quality and its subcomponents, in particular the participants’ ‘daytime dysfunction’ and ‘sleep latency’ subcomponents. Also, those effects are beneficial and recommended for seniors, females, and those with diseases.” Most significantly, these global benefits to the sleep and well-being of elderly patients remained in effect up to one month after the end of the formal treatment.
Akyar, I., & Akdemir, N. (2014). The effect of light therapy on the sleep quality of the elderly: An intervention study. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (Online), 31(2), 31-38.