Mariana Figueiro, PhD, the director of the Light and Health Program at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute calls the effect of low flat lighting a “perfect bad storm” for residents with Alzheimer’s disease.
In residents with Alzheimer’s, the brain’s ability to process light is unable to keep the body clock in sync with wake/sleep cycles.
“We know…how the retina converts the light signals into neuro signals for the circadian system and we know that we have photo receptors in the eye that are more sensitive to short wave lengths, or blue lights,” said in an interview.
To help residents with Alzheimer’s maintain their circadian rhythm, Figueiro and her team created a blue light table by mounting an edge-lit TV into a table frame. They can sit around the table for activities and meals. For those residents confined to their rooms, lights have been replaced with specialty bulbs.
Based on studies Figueiro has conducted in nursing homes, the therapeutic lighting is working. “We’re showing improvement in sleep efficiency, we’re showing a reduction in agitation and a very strong effect in reducing depression,” she said. In addition, better sleep was associated with fewer falls.