PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Could resetting your biological clock help you sleep better and think better?
“The biological clock does play a role into sleep or circadian problems leading to sleep disturbance,” says Allegheny Health Network sleep specialist Dr. Khalid Malik.
“One of the most effective ways to help people with sleep are behavioral therapies,” says Carol Schrmake, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Allegheny Health Network.
Researchers tested whether adjusting your internal sleep-wake cycle could have an effect.
They studied 100 adults with mild thinking problems in their 60s and 70s. The participants got randomly assigned to get 20 weeks of timed, bright-light therapy, or to a wait list. Both groups got classes on good sleep habits, counseling by phone and physical activity tracking.
The researchers measured sleep quality with monitors and questionnaires at 12 weeks and 24 weeks into the study.
The people in the bright light group had better sleep quality at 12 weeks, and continued to perceive better sleep at 24 weeks.
“Have I prescribed light as such? Not to many patients. Which probably I think I should,” says Dr. Malik.
He says you may not even need the box.
“Get outside in the morning, sit on the patio, have a better sunlight exposure, go for a walk in daylight, rather than in the evening,” Dr. Malik said.
“We know changing behavior is hard,” says Dr. Schramke. “It’s something that’s unlikely to have bad side effects, so probably worth trying.”
“Bright light therapy probably will help to consolidate sleep. And people who have cognitive problems, it may delay dementia symptoms. It is to be seen,” Dr. Malik adds.