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Bright light therapy as part of a multicomponent management program improves sleep and functional outcomes in delirious older hospitalized adults

Authors Chong MS, Tan KT, Tay L, Wong YM, Ancoli-Israel S

Received 7 March 2013

Accepted for publication 15 April 2013

Published 22 May 2013 Volume 2013:8 Pages 565—572

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S44926

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Mei Sian Chong,1 Keng Teng Tan,2 Laura Tay,1 Yoke Moi Wong,1 Sonia Ancoli-Israel3,4

1Department of Geriatric Medicine, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore; 2Department of Pharmacy, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore; 3Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA; 4VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health (CESAMH), San Diego, CA, USA

Objective: Delirium is associated with poor outcomes following acute hospitalization. A specialized delirium management unit, the Geriatric Monitoring Unit (GMU), was established. Evening bright light therapy (2000–3000 lux; 6–10 pm daily) was added as adjunctive treatment, to consolidate circadian activity rhythms and improve sleep. This study examined whether the GMU program improved sleep, cognitive, and functional outcomes in delirious patients.
Method: A total of 228 patients (mean age = 84.2 years) were studied. The clinical characteristics, delirium duration, delirium subtype, Delirium Rating Score (DRS), cognitive status (Chinese Mini–Mental State Examination), functional status (modified Barthel Index [MBI]), and chemical restraint use during the initial and predischarge phase of the patient’s GMU admission were obtained. Nurses completed hourly 24-hour patient sleep logs, and from these, the mean total sleep time, number of awakenings, and sleep bouts (SB) were computed.
Results: The mean delirium duration was 6.7 ± 4.6 days. Analysis of the delirium subtypes showed that 18.4% had hypoactive delirium, 30.2% mixed delirium, and 51.3% had hyperactive delirium. There were significant improvements in MBI scores, especially for the hyperactive and mixed delirium subtypes (P < 0.05). Significant improvements were noted on the DRS sleep–wake disturbance subscore, for all delirium-subtypes. The mean total sleep time (7.7 from 6.4 hours) (P < 0.05) and length of first SB (6.0 compared with 5.3 hours) (P < 0.05) improved, with decreased mean number of SBs and awakenings. The sleep improvements were mainly seen in the hyperactive delirium subtype.
Conclusion: This study shows initial evidence for the clinical benefits (longer total sleep time, increased first SB length, and functional gains) of incorporating bright light therapy as part of a multicomponent delirium management program. The benefits appear to have occurred mainly in patients with hyperactive delirium, which merits further in-depth, randomized controlled studies.

Keywords: sleep, delirium, function, elderly

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