Cataracts Could Cause Insomnia In The Elderly

By on September 5, 2011

If you are a senior citizen and you are finding it hard to get to sleep at night, a new study may have some answers for you. A natural yellowing of the eye lens that absorbs blue light s has been linked to sleep disorders in the elderly.

“The strong link between lens yellowing and age could help explain why sleep disorders become more frequent with increasing age,” Line Kessel, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s lead author, was quoted saying.

A group of 970 volunteers had their eyes examined by lens autofluorometry; a non-invasive method that determined how much blue light was transmitted into the retina. Blue light influences the sleep cycle by helping initiate the release of the hormone Melatonin, which tells the body when it’s time to go to sleep or stay awake.

82.8 percent of the volunteers that were considered to have a sleep disorder confirmed that they often suffered from insomnia or that they had purchased prescription sleeping pills within the last year. Researchers were able to find a link between blue light transmission and sleeping problems; people who had yellowing of the eye lens, which causes less blue light to come into the retina, had a greater risk of sleep disturbances. Higher rates of sleep disorders were reported by older participants, smokers and women.

“The results showed that while age-related lens yellowing is of relatively little importance for visual function, it may be responsible for insomnia in the elderly,” Kessel was quoted saying.

Cataract surgery could be the solution to end those sleepless nights. Kessel, who is a senior scientist in the Department of Opthalmology at Glostrup Hospital in Denmark, said that sleep quality has been shown to improve after cataract surgery.

“The transmission of blue light currently cannot be improved by any other method than cataract surgery,” She was quoted saying.

Source: Ivanhoe, via EurekAlert

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