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Light Mitigates Alzheimer’s Symptoms

TROY, N.Y., June 4, 2014 — Those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia could soon find some relief thanks to a developing light treatment.

A new study by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that daytime light treatment could improve sleep and reduce depression and agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. The treatment is specifically designed to increase circadian stimulation.

“It is a simple, inexpensive, non-pharmacological treatment to improve sleep and behavior in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients,” said Dr. Mariana Figueiro, associate professor and director of the Light and Health program with the Lighting Research Center at RPI.

Fourteen nursing home patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease and related dementia were involved in the initial study. The tailored light treatment was installed in each of the patients’ rooms, producing low levels (300 to 400 lux) of a blue/white light with a color temperature of more than 9000 K.

Over the course of four weeks, light/dark and activity/rest patterns were obtained using a calibrated instrument, done prior to and after the lighting intervention. The researchers also measured sleep quality, depression and agitation via standardized questionnaires.

“Subjective reports by the nursing staff were that the patients were calmer, eating better and their overall behavior was more manageable,” Figueiro said.

Additional research will be conducted, according to information presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies’ Sleep 2014 meeting.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.

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