Can Bright Light Therapy Help Seniors Who Don’t Suffer from SAD?
Note: Please check with your doctor if you have any eye conditions to make sure this is a safe option for you.
The benefits of bright light therapy for those who suffer from depression – both seasonal and non-seasonal – has been well-documented.
Regular exposure to bright light during the less sunny months can help improve sleep, regulate mood, and decrease overall depressive symptoms.
For those seniors who suffer from some form of depression, then, bright light therapy can seem a natural fit. But what about those seniors who don’t have depression?
Can bright light therapy benefit seniors who do not suffer from SAD or other depressive conditions?
In short, yes, bright light therapy does have benefits for seniors who don’t have diagnosed depression. Here are 3 ways:
As we age, our body’s natural circadian rhythm changes. This can lead many seniors to go to sleep early in the evening and wake in the middle of the night. It also can lead to insomnia, or sleeping too much, neither of which is healthy.
Part of the reason seniors’ sleep patterns change is that, often, their exposure to sunlight diminishes as they spend more time indoors. This lack of sunlight leads to a decrease in the body’s ability to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s crucial to regulating circadian rhythm.
When serotonin production is disrupted, either by the body producing too much or too little, a person’s sleep patterns get thrown off.
Bright light therapy helps trigger correct production of serotonin, balancing out the person’s sleep/wake cycle and helping restore normal sleep patterns.
The aging process can cause changes to a senior’s appetite and weight. Some seniors experience weight gain due to being more sedentary, while others see weight loss because they don’t want to or don’t know how to prepare meals just for themselves.
Bright light therapy can help restore appropriate hunger cues in seniors experiencing both types of weight changes, leading to better weight management and better overall health.
Sometimes, seniors get a reputation for being “cranky.” Whether this comes from a general change in their mood or unnoticed depression symptoms, it’s not normal for drastic mood changes to take place.
This change in mood can, in part, be traced to the senior’s feeling less connected to society and feeling more lonely, as many seniors become isolated in their advancing years. If left unchecked, this loneliness and disconnection can lead to depression.
For those seniors who suffer from mood swings and changes, bright light therapy can help regulate endorphins. These neurotransmitters are what gives you the “happy” feeling after exercising, for example, and lead to greater feelings of happiness and well-being.
By producing more endorphins, seniors’ moods can become better regulated and they can be less likely to be known as the crabby guy down the street.
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