Can Bright Light Therapy Help Someone with Parkinson’s?
Tremors and difficulty speaking are among the most commonly known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
However, many Parkinson’s patients also suffer from sleep disruption, caused either by the disease itself or by the medications they take to manage their disease.
With these sleep disturbances comes the question: Can bright light therapy help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease?
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects overall movement of the body. It is most common in older adults, although young people – most notably actor Michael J. Fox – have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Slowed movement
- Stiff muscles
- Impaired posture and balance
- Inability to perform automatic movements, such as blinking or smiling
- Speech changes
- Difficulty writing
Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured and often gets worse over time. There are medications that can help improve symptoms, and some of these medications can lead to sleep disruptions.
Can Bright Light Therapy Help Parkinson’s-Related Sleep Disturbances?
A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology tested whether bright light therapy could help the sleep disturbances that are common in Parkinson’s patients.
This trial studied 31 adults who had been living with Parkinson’s for an average of 6 years. Participants were randomly assigned to complete 1 hour of exposure of 10,000 lux bright light or 1 hour of exposure to less than 300 lux dim red light every morning and every afternoon for two weeks.
They also wore actigraphy monitors (monitors that track rest and activity cycles), complete daily sleep diaries, and log daytime sleepiness every two hours, three days a week.
According to the trial, those who received the bright light therapy saw vast improvement in their excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as overall sleep quality, overnight awakenings, and ease of falling asleep. The bright light therapy also improved overall severity of Parkinson’s symptoms, particularly in activities of daily living and motor symptoms.
While this is a relatively small, short-term study on the effects of bright light therapy on Parkinson’s disease patients, its results show that its use to help Parkinson’s patients is promising.
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