Human beings have four basic needs for survival: air, water, food, and shelter. However, we have other needs for thriving, and one of those is natural light. Without it, people can struggle with sleep disorders and depression. Natural light tells our brain and body that it’s daytime, time to be awake and alert, time to gather and socialize, time to move our bodies, eat, and drink. Without natural light our brain and body can get confused, our sleep patterns can get messed up, and our mood can suffer.
Elderly people often struggle with insomnia and the ensuing lack of energy, focus, and overall happiness. One of the primary reasons for this is they no longer get outside and see natural daylight as often as they used to. They may have mobility issues, lack of access, or be suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The lack of bright light messes with their internal clock and circadian rhythm.
"Without natural light our brain and body can get confused, our sleep patterns can get messed up, and our mood can suffer."
Another reason for sleep issues is when the seasons turn cold and rainy, people can also experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I went to college in Oregon, and my roommate was from Southern California. When that first chilly, dark, wet winter hit, she was not ready. Luckily our health center offered sun lamps to our warm climate classmates, and she was back to her old self in no time.
Light therapy (therapy lights), sun lamps, or happy lights are all essentially the same thing and there are a multitude available. Most resources say you should look for a light with 10,000 lux. Our personal favorite is the HappyLight by Verilux. Simply place it at an angle of approximately 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock, slightly raised if you want to further mimic the sun, and turn on for 30 minutes a day. I like to do mine while I drink my coffee. You can check emails, eat breakfast, read a book – it doesn’t matter.
The benefits of light therapy are pretty astounding. Building that one simple habit into your day can improve your sleep, energy, mood, and focus. It may even encourage elderly loved ones to go for a walk, socialize, or step outside if they’re able.
If you have an elderly loved one struggling with insomnia or depression, consider purchasing a light therapy device for them. Some even come with timers and various settings. Most are on sale this time of year. You’ll be amazed at the results. As with anything medically related, check with their doctor first.
At LTC Consumer we aim to educate consumers about long term care, long term care insurance, and the common issues facing elderly loved ones. Get started today to find out if long term care insurance is right for you and your family.