Light, sleep and circadian rhythms in older adults with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias

Neurodegener Dis Manag. 2017 Apr;7(2):119-145. doi: 10.2217/nmt-2016-0060. Epub 2017 May 23.


Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) can cause sleep and behavioral problems that are problematic for ADRD patients and their family caregivers. Light therapy has shown promise as a nonpharmacological treatment, and preliminary studies demonstrate that timed light exposure can consolidate and improve nighttime sleep efficiency, increase daytime wakefulness and reduce evening agitation without the adverse effects of pharmacological solutions. Compliance with light treatment and the accurate measurement of light exposures during treatment, however, have presented barriers for the adoption of light therapy for ADRD. Recent research showing that the circadian system is maximally sensitive to short-wavelength light opens the way for the potential application of lower, more-targeted light intensities to maximize compliance and individualize light dose/timing in therapeutic settings.

Keywords: ADRD; Alzheimer's disease; circadian rhythms; dementia; light; lighting; older adults; sleep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Dementia / therapy
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy*
  • Sleep*