People suffering with dementia can have problems relating to lack of sleep. This is because dementia causes disruption to the body’s “Circadian Rhythm” – the natural cycle that governs sleep and wakefulness. This disruption can lead to anxiety for the sufferer as they struggle to cope with irregular sleeping patterns, which can result in daytime naps and sleepless nights.
It has been proven that people with dementia can benefit from therapy involving light, sounds and images which create a relaxing atmosphere and help promote a sense of well-being.
The second application of light therapy for dementia sufferers is to create a relaxing atmosphere through the projection of serene visual scenes.
As a dementia sufferer Stella, along with support from ubu decided to undertake some research into the available assistive technology that might be beneficial for her.
We spent some time, also with Stella’s brother, deliberating over which was the best option; cost had to be considered too because these items can be very expensive.
It was agreed that Stella would purchase a projector with three discs that each project a different atmospheric scene. These include clouds, aquatic creatures and aviation scenes. With the lights off in Stella’s room the images are projected on to the ceiling and create a delightful image-scape that provide a wonderful accompaniment to her daily support. She can lie back and watch the scenes unfold and it is a very peaceful environment.
As we have used the projector more and more, it has become obvious how much of a benefit it has provided to Stella. She is more comfortable, calmer and generally much happier on a day to day basis.
Though the initial expenditure was quite high, Stella and her brother agree that it was most definitely worth it.
With this in mind we can truly see the benefits of light; something that many of us simply see as the thing that separates day from night can, for many, be a source of genuine treatment that will offer huge benefits.
Study into light therapy
BBC News story on Light Therapy “slowing” dementia
Light Therapy Products
There are two main kinds of light therapy for dementia sufferers. The first is to use a device such as the pictured product which simulates daylight and provides a bright enough atmosphere to “reset” the person’s body clock, allowing them to remain awake for the normal hours they would usually expect.
This of course leads to a much more predictable night time sleeping pattern which subsequently reduces the chance of anxiety and/or adverse behaviours. This effect was proven in a study which took place between 2000 and 2002, which saw 48 patients trialling the method. Each person was exposed to an increasing amount of light (sourced from a light box) and it was concluded that those who were provided the brightest conditions were the most likely to avoid problems with their circadian rhythm.
Though irrelevant, it is interesting to note that one of the researchers working on this project found that they too experienced greater relaxation when using the light boxes, also experiencing improved sleep and even an increased appetite.
Since this research there have been many products available on the market which provide this simulated daylight experience. In fact they are now widely known for their therapeutic benefits for sufferers of Dementia, Alzheimers and Depression.
Read on for the 2nd kind of light therapy.