Sunlight treatment could help nighttime wandering in people with Alzheimer's, study suggests

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The tendency of Alzheimer's patients to wander at night could be tied to the quantity of daylight they're exposed to, new research finds. As a result, experts say that “light therapy” could be helpful in treating this behavior.

Using a dime-sized device called a Dimesimeter, which can be attached to a person's wrist or clothing, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute collected circadian light exposures in individuals with Alzheimer's and related dementias (ADRD) and from healthy people for one week. People with ADRD experienced lower light levels, exhibited lower activity levels, and had greater disruption to their natural circadian rhythms than their healthier counterparts, according to the study.

Researchers hope to devise lighting intervention for people with ADRD. Possible treatment could include going outdoors for 15 minutes to sitting in front of a light box fitted with blue LEDs for a prescribed amount of time.

The study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver earlier this month.