For most people, when the sun goes down, it’s a time of relaxation, rest, and solace. But, for some with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, when night comes, it can be quite different. In fact, it can be the harrowing experience known as Sundowners Syndrome. Sundowners Syndrome is defined as a neurological phenomenon that directly corresponds with the fading of natural light, or nighttime. Generally, increased restlessness and confusion can stem from the syndrome, and sometimes, mild to severe behavioral issues can also present themselves. Sundowners typically takes place more frequently in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The symptoms tend to subside as the disease progresses.
Those experiencing Sundowners Syndrome have been found to understand that something is abnormal with their behavior, but their ability to control the behavior is limited. Research has shown that between 20-45% of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will face some variety of Sundowners Syndrome.
The main symptom of Sundowners Syndrome is increased confusion, especially as the natural light begins to fade and the presence of shadows increases. Mood swings and agitation are also a common symptoms of the syndrome. Agitation can be a result of the confusion one experiences when the syndrome begins—at night. Sometimes, mood swings and agitation can become so intense that those suffering from the syndrome may even lash out verbally and physically toward another. Although, this is rare. Sufferers may have increased and/or uncontrollable tremors. Restlessness is also another major symptom of the syndrome. This restlessness can result in wandering and/or pacing.
What Causes Sundowners Syndrome?
Unfortunately, there’s no solid empirical evidence to conclude what causes Sundowners Syndrome. Although, some research has suggested that it is due to the disruption of the individual’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates the body’s sleep cycles. When the sun goes down, the body releases certain biochemical hormones to prepare the body for rest. Those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia already have a disrupted hormone level. Research suggests that this unregulated hormone level may be the cause.
Ways to Help Ease Sundowners
One of the best ways to help limit Sundowners Syndrome is to have and maintain a regular schedule. Routine activities, meals, and rest can go a long way to making the brain realize when it’s time to release the appropriate hormones, like those required for sleep. Limiting napping can be an easy way to reduce the possibility of Sundowners. If one is rested, chances are that they will be awake during the time when Sundowners is likely to happen. Reducing the intake of caffeine within four hours before bedtime can also help.
Bonaventure Senior Living memory care has a schedule that is suited for the positive benefit of all memory care residents. This routine helps those with Sundowners Syndrome by regulating activities, meals, and sleep. It’s one of the best reasons to consider memory care at Bonaventure Senior Living.
What Else Can Be Done?
If your loved one is experiencing Sundowners Syndrome there are certain things you can do to make sure that they are as comfortable and safe as possible. Staying calm is one of the best ways to help. By staying calm in a situation that they feel is abnormal, you send subtle signals that can actually help relax the person. Simply telling the person that everything is going to be okay can be a great help if they feel uneasy. Do not argue with them. This won’t get you anywhere, and in fact, will most likely bring more agitation to the person and worsen the issues. Make sure to keep them safe: Locking doors, windows, and keeping an eye on the person is a great way to ensure that they are not going to wander off.
While there are currently many studies on Sundowners Syndrome, it is hard to quantify due to the presence of numerous variables. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may not be tired, or just confused. Figuring out a pattern that seems to take place with the setting sun is the first step to ensuring that they’re suffering from Sundowners and not something else.
At Bonaventure Senior Living Memory Care, we’re proud of our staff. They are highly trained and know what to look for and what to do when it comes to Sundowners Syndrome. With the ever changing world of knowledge, medicine, and treatments, we pride ourselves on staying on top of all new methods to make sure that your loved one has the best possible life at a Bonaventure Senior Living community.