Guest Blog: Light Therapy: A Potential Approach for Sleep Issues in People with Dementia

Caring for individuals with dementia poses unique challenges, particularly when managing sleep disorders associated with the condition. Sleep disturbances are common for those with dementia, affecting their quality of life and potentially exacerbating cognitive decline. Light therapy has emerged as a promising non-pharmacological approach to address these sleep issues in recent years. 


In this blog post, we will explore the concept of light therapy, its effectiveness, benefits, potential side effects, and how it can improve the sleep schedule and overall well-being of individuals with dementia.

What is Light Therapy?


Light therapy, also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy, involves exposure to specific types of light to simulate natural sunlight. It typically utilises a light box or lamp emitting bright, artificial light.

The light used in therapy is much brighter than indoor lighting but does not contain harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Light therapy sessions typically last about 30 minutes and are conducted daily, preferably in the morning.

The Role of Light Therapy in Sleep Disorders in Dementia


Sleep disorders, such as insomnia and disrupted sleep-wake cycles, are frequently observed in individuals with dementia.

These issues can stem from disturbances in the internal body clock and reduced exposure to natural daylight. Light therapy helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle by mimicking natural daylight and influencing the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a crucial role in sleep regulation.

By exposing people with dementia to bright light in the morning, light therapy can help synchronise their body clocks and promote better sleep at night.

Benefits and Side Effects of Light Therapy


Light therapy has several benefits in managing sleep disorders in people with dementia. Some of the key advantages include:

Improved Sleep Quality


Light therapy has been linked to better sleep efficiency, reduced nighttime wakefulness, and increased total sleep time.

Enhanced Daytime Alertness


By regulating the sleep-wake cycle, light therapy can improve daytime alertness and reduce excessive daytime sleepiness.

Mood Stabilisation 


Light therapy has been associated with improved mood, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety commonly experienced by those living with dementia.

How to Implement Light Therapy for Dementia 


Implementing light therapy for people diagnosed with dementia involves careful consideration and management. Here are some steps to effectively incorporate light therapy into a care plan:

1. Consult with Healthcare Providers: 

Before starting light therapy, it is crucial to consult with healthcare providers familiar with the person’s condition. They can assess the appropriateness of light therapy and provide personalised recommendations.

2. Select the Right Light Box: 

Choose a light box that emits at least 10,000 lux of light intensity. Ensure the device filters out harmful UV rays and consult with healthcare providers or specialists for specific product recommendations.

3. Establish a Routine: 

Incorporate light therapy into the person’s daily routine, ideally in the morning. Aim for consistent exposure of around 30 minutes each day.

4. Monitor and Adjust: 

Regularly monitor the person’s response to light therapy and make adjustments as necessary. Collaborate with healthcare providers to evaluate the therapy’s effectiveness and address any concerns.

Light therapy offers a promising non-pharmacological approach to managing the varying sleep disorders often associated with dementia. By regulating the sleep-wake cycle and influencing melatonin production, light therapy can improve sleep quality, enhance daytime alertness, and potentially slow down the progression of the disease.

However, it is important to remember that light therapy is not a cure for dementia or its associated sleep issues.

Professional medical advice should always be sought before starting any new treatments.

By working closely with healthcare providers and incorporating light therapy into a comprehensive care plan, caregivers can positively impact the sleep and overall well-being of individuals with dementia.

About the Author

Relish designs products to bring joy to life with dementia. Their mission is to enhance the wellbeing of people with dementia by offering meaningful, fun activities that help them build relationships with their loved ones and caregivers.