The sick and tired, often find themselves “locked” away in dark and dreary rooms, quietly waiting to move on to the next world, especially when the rest of the world, believes they no longer have the capacity TO GET BETTER.
As they wait quietly, the brain begins to waste away. Cognitive abilities decline and personalities become more grouchy and grumpy.
Getting old is not for sissies.
Dark and dreary drains the brain
The convalescent’s room, is designed to be pale and calming, the curtains are slightly drawn and the lights are typically set on low.
Caregivers believe this is the most nurturing environment – it is governed by strict routine and quiet.
But the continuous low light lighting, is disrupting an ancient routine – the circadian rhythm.
Nature turns on the lights most days
The circadian rhythm, does more than just set the body’s metabolic rhythms, it sets the brain’s rhythm too.
A research team from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, decided to turn on the lights in elderly care facilities across the Netherlands, to see if hitting the light switch, might make a difference to the multitude of old brain’s, struggling to see the light.
Turning on the lights
The study included 189 seriously old, average age 85.8 years, living in several old age institutions.
They were mostly female (90%) and most of them were considered to not be thinking too clearly i.e. 87 % of them had a diagnosis of dementia.
The researchers arranged for bright lights, to be installed in the ceilings of some of the facilities.
The lights were turned up at 9 am and turned off at 6 pm. Not quite mimicking the sun, which even in Norway, typically makes an appearance before 9 am, but ensuring the residents got a daily dose of bright light, to help set their circadian rhythm.
Lights lit up brain performance
Turning the lights on made a difference.
No, it didn’t turn back time and get the old brain’s thinking like new but…
- It did slow down the cognitive decline, by about 5 %
- Residents seemed a lot happier, depression decreased by 19 %
Overall, the lights improved thinking abilities, mood, behaviour, ability to function and sleep.
In short, the old folks spending their days IN THE LIGHT – acted a lot less old.
The only adverse effect of the bright light therapy, was an increase in the electricity bill.
Shine the light on grandpa
If the light seems to be dimming in your brain or the brain of someone you love, as a result of those passing years. Try turning the lights on – LITERALLY.Effect of Bright Light and Melatonin on Cognitive and Noncognitive Function in Elderly Residents of Group Care Facilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA, 2008;299(22):2642-2655. Rixt F. Riemersma-van der Lek; Dick F. Swaab; Jos Twisk; Elly M. Hol; Witte J. G. Hoogendijk; Eus J. W. Van Someren.
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