Sleep can be a problem for adults of all ages, but elders can be particularly affected. Lack of continuous sleep for at least seven hours a night can cause a variety of health issues. Some seniors, particularly those with dementia, may become agitated at night. Recent studies are helping concerned family members to tackle this issue. The solution? Replacing light bulbs. A newer generation of bulbs is designed to help the body sleep at night or stay alert during the day.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Dr. Michael J. Breus, a fellow at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explains, “Exposure to light is having a cascading effect on health on multiple levels.” The glare from many of our lighting sources is not limited to just our electronic devices. LED bulbs in lamps and ceiling fixtures also create a bluer light, even if it appears white. Incandescent bulbs feel more soothing to the eyes, like the light from a campfire, while LED lights often feel like staring at the flame of a blowtorch. “It can make a room feel cold and sterile and depressing,” says interior designer, Jill Vegas.
Light interferes with our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that signals when to sleep, when to wake up, and when to eat. Staring at a bright bluish light, such as the one from a television, tablet or smartphone, sends the brain a signal to stop producing melatonin, a powerful hormone that helps us to fall asleep. Disrupting the circadian rhythm can affect weight loss, mood, sleep patterns, and libido. Chronic sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
The “blowtorch” can be replaced with lighting that is easier on the eyes, especially after sundown. A number of companies are making lights or devices which adjust as the day progresses. Apple has introduced Night Shift so users can reduce the amount of blue light emitted from their iPad and iPhone screens. Lighting Science offers a line of biological bulbs that give off light meant to compliment the circadian rhythm rather than disrupting it. The light from their Sleepy Baby bulb does not interfere with melatonin production. On the other end of the spectrum, the Awake and Alert bulb helps users to stay awake.
Ultimately, biological lighting is only as beneficial as the person using it. The packaging for the Good Night light includes directions advising consumers to use the light as “part of a healthy bedtime routine” that includes limiting the use of electronic devices and other light sources for two hours prior to bedtime.
So, when replacing the light bulb in the lamp by mother’s bedroom chair, it might be a good idea to put a timer on her TV to turn it off as well.