How changing light could help people with dementia, other diseases

May 13th, 2009 - 4:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 13 (ANI): Periods of blue-light, like daylight, produced from the blue-white lamp prototypes developed by GE scientists, could help people suffering from dementia and other health problems, according to researchers from Case Western Reserve University.

For the study, the researchers removed some standard fluorescent lighting and installed new blue-white lamp prototypes at the GE’s Nela Park campus, where daylight, which has proven health benefits, is not readily available.

They hypothesized that periods of blue light, like daylight, can help regulate the sleep-wake rhythm, which is a behavioural pattern linked to the 24-hour biochemical circadian cycle of the hormone melatonin. The levels of the hormone determine if people are awake or sleepy.

And by increasing exposure to blue-white light during the day, and yellow-white light in the evening, the researchers hope to help patients regulate their sleep-wake cycles so that they are more awake during the day and more asleep at night.

According to Patricia Higgins, associate professor at the Bolton School of Nursing and one of the lead investigators, the project may prove to be especially beneficial for people suffering from dementia.

In a recent study with five male patients, each person suffering from dementia and living in a long-term care facility, the researchers installed the blue-white lights in an activities room where most residents gathered for meals and daytime activities.

“We wanted to see whether lighting could affect the participants’ sleep-wake rhythms. While the group was small, the results show promise in raising activity levels during daytime hours and increasing sleep at nighttime,” said Higgins.

And they saw one unexpected side effect of the lighting- once adjusted to the blue-white light most employees claimed that they liked the new lighting conditions.

The researchers said that the new lighting used in the test changes the colour without overpowering individuals with brightness.

“Why waste light if you can tune it to the right colour and maximize the amount of useful light,” said Mariana Figueiro, who worked on the study.

“Light is a good stimulus for the circadian system, which regulates your sleep-wake cycles,” says Thomas Hornick, another worker on the study.

He said that it is known that certain drugs do better when given at the appropriate time in the circadian cycle.

Also, the researchers are hoping to apply the study’s findings as a safe, non-pharmacological intervention to change the lighting in hospitals where patients may have a speedier recovery or improved quality of life with a good night’s rest. (ANI)

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