Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let there be Light

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good...
Genesis 1:3,4

One of my co-workers was asking if I thought the full moon affected the behaviour of patients on our unit, many of whom have various types of dementia. We often notice increased restlessness, pacing and agitation starting about midafternoon and staff who work nights have their hands full with very active patients during throughout their shift. Those of us who work days come in to find the same people asleep and difficult to arouse in the morning. I have never noticed a consistent correlation with the phases of the moon though.

It is likely that the sun has more effect on behaviour than the moon does. I met a physician this weekend at the 'bed and breakfast' and we were discussing various sleep disorders. He referred me to a study done in the Netherlands which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June 2008. Here is a partial summary of the article from Medscape written by Susan Jeffrey.

Brighter Lighting Improves Symptoms in Patients With Dementia

June 12, 2008 — A new study finds that a strategy as simple as increasing levels of daytime lighting in care facilities may improve a variety of cognitive and noncognitive symptoms in patients with dementia.

Researchers carried out a randomized trial using a factorial design to study the effects of light and melatonin, both of which modulate circadian rhythm, or the combination of both light and melatonin among patients with dementia living in 12 group care facilities in the Netherlands.

They found that increasing levels of daytime lighting in the facility had a "modest" benefit in improving some symptoms of disturbed cognition, mood, behavior, functional abilities, and sleep.*

Sunset over Lake Erie, Leamington, Ontario

The sun has plenty of bad press in recent years as excessive exposure may lead to cataracts, cancer, wrinkles and premature aging of the skin. But sunlight also improves mood, produces Vitamin D, and regulates circadian rhythms. Our patients are on a locked unit and the individuals with the most significant negative behaviours do not get taken outdoors. Now that nicer weather is here, I take some patients outdoors as often as possible during their therapy sessions, and I can justify that with the findings of this study. It may be beneficial for institutions to provide a sitting room for patients equipped with full spectrum light.

Whether we have dementia or not, light is essential to health and well being.

And we see that light is good!

*Effect of Bright Light and Melatonin on Cognitive and Noncognitive Function in Elderly Residents of Group Care Facilities
A Randomized Controlled Trial
Rixt F. Riemersma-van der Lek, MD; Dick F. Swaab, MD, PhD; Jos Twisk, PhD; Elly M. Hol, PhD;
Witte J. G. Hoogendijk, MD, PhD; Eus J. W. Van Someren, PhD
JAMA. 2008;299(22):2642-2655.


  1. I didn't realize you worked with individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia! I just left my job of 8 years to stay home with my kids--my company works to bring social reform to eldercare. Great article!

  2. Without enough light, I think we do become demented. Speaking for myself, of course.

  3. Love the photos.With this kind of beauty the spirit has to be lifted.

  4. There's no doubt that at least for me, the sun is powerful. Moving from the gray days of the midwest to the sunshine of North Carolina, I can tell an enormous difference in my winter moods.

    Lovely photographs.

  5. Without sunlight, our world would not be!
    One of my favorite classical pieces--Haydn's The Creation. The opening chorus rises to crescendo of "let there be light"--and the chorus sings "LIGHT"--oh, it is glorious.
    Like the sun.

  6. And God even told us that on day 1 of creation--He made the light and saw that it was good.

    Lovely photos and very intersting post!

  7. I agree, light is very important to our well-being. I even picked up one of those SAD lamps to use over the dreary winters!

  8. Hi informative post and one I am particularly interested in. My mother in law has started to show signs of dimentia, so this could be very helpful indeed....thank you.

    I totally agree, light is good. I spend many hours outside and for me, it is the best therapy in the world......

  9. I certainly feel more cheerful on a sunny day, especially when I can get outside to enjoy it.
    Beautiful photos to lift the spirits.

  10. Interesting article. Sun and light do uplift us and center us, no doubt. I am sure those patients you get outdoors benefit so much from it.

  11. vitamin D explains much of this. take a look at for all the information. THe site also has a good news letter and have recently started an offer to supply their customers children with a free supply of vitamin D

  12. Anonymous5:01 pm GMT-4

    I had skin cancer and was told to stay out of the sun. Others said get some sun or you will get skin cancer. So what am I supposed to do? I came to the conclusion that God made the sun for our good and so I am not going to avoid sunshine, nor am I going to lay in the sun for the sake of a sun tan.

  13. Very good info. I believe I need sun to make me happier. But then, the moon is reported to do strange things to people too.

  14. Ruth, this was an excellent and informative post. Several studies have been done regarding the lack of sunlight and depression in people, especially those folks who live in the northern-most part of our hemisphere where there is a lack of sunlight in the winter months.

  15. Thanks for all the comments. Sun is important in moderation, but like many other things, some people overdo their exposure.

  16. I'm a firm believer in letting the light in! I can't understand people that have their blinds drawn tight all of the time.

    I'm very happy that my Mom has a nice sunny room. It makes a HUGE difference.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.