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Sleep patterns in care homes

Sleep progresses through three stages, N1, N2 and N3, of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), and one of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. NREM sleep is associated with restoration of the body while REM sleep is associated with learning. The deepest stage of NREM sleep, N3 (slow-wave sleep), features strongly in the first half of the sleep period but is greatly reduced in older people.

Blue light can help establish more usual sleep patterns which could be of particular benefit to older people

Picture credit: iStock

Inducing sleep relies on a complicated system of chemical and optical triggers. Chemical triggers include substances such as adenosine, which dampens neurotransmission in part of the forebrain to induce tiredness, and the hormone melatonin, which is produced when light levels fall and increases during sleep.

Optical triggers rely on light, particularly the blue tone of natural daylight, falling on part of the retina in the eye and stimulating the optic nerve to send signals to the hypothalamus, which orchestrates the sleep-wake cycle.

If lighting in care homes is poor, residents may have difficulties with their circadian rhythm. The use of blue light to mimic daylight in the morning can help re-establish a normal sleep pattern and reduce confusion, while lower light levels in the evening promote


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