Sunset - can trigger sun downers

Interrupting The Body Clock Spells Disaster For Sundowners Sufferers

Sunset - can trigger sun downersMothering Sunday Marks The Start Of Summer Time

Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are vulnerable to the symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome, which is linked to an interrupted body clock and changes in light.

Spring is here and with it comes much to look forward to – warmer weather, the promise of summer, the Easter bank holiday and of course Mothering Sunday, which takes place on 26th March. However, unfortunately for mothers across the UK, they will be treated to one hour’s less sleep than usual this year, as the annual celebration happens to fall on the day that the clocks move forward into British Summer Time, or BST.

History Of British Summer Time

Since 1916 when the Summer Time Act was first passed by the government, the clocks have moved forward by one hour to avoid wasting valuable daylight when we’re asleep in the mornings. As a result, the evenings are lighter and longer. There are many benefits associated with BST, in particular there are found to be fewer traffic accidents on the roads, and less crime committed when the evenings are lighter. There are also psychological benefits, particularly for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

However, unfortunately there are also some disadvantages, especially for those who are sensitive to changes to the body clock. One such group of people are those who experience Sundowners Syndrome.

What Is Sundowners Syndrome?

This unpleasant condition is a symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Typically, it occurs at any point between 3pm and 8pm, which is why it is associated with the sun going down. However, it has not been definitively confirmed as to whether light has an influence on the symptoms of this condition. It is equally possible that the effects of the day’s stimulation, medication intake, a building hunger, or other physical ailments all contribute to a person feeling unwell at this time of day.

The symptoms that a person with Sundowners might exhibit, include: confusion, anger, depression, feeling restless, paranoid or agitated. As a result, they might be more prone to crying, rocking, wandering, or acting aggressively. The symptoms often get progressively worse during the evening, but have largely disappeared again by morning.

Managing Sundowners Syndrome

For those who are looking after someone with Sundowners Syndrome, whether as a family member, friend, or whilst working for a live in care agency or in another carer capacity, it can be difficult to know how to manage this tricky and relentless daily illness. However, there are some steps you can take to help ease the effects.

  • Provide access to light in the early hours of the morning in order to set the internal body clock
  • Make sure that your loved one gets enough exercise during the day, so there is no pent-up energy at sundown
  • Restrict caffeine intake and allow these beverages to only be consumed in the morning, to reduce the chances of agitation in the late afternoon
  • Quiet activities, perhaps with soft music should take place in the late afternoon and early evening in order to soothe and promote better sleep
  • Always make sure that you turn the lights on, before sundown has arrived
  • Discourage visitors from arriving in the early evening
  • Once you’ve found a routine that works, try and stick to it.

It is important to be aware that each individual is affected by Sundowners Syndrome in different ways. Therefore, what works for one person, may aggravate another. Take some time to work with your patient or loved one, to discover the best way of managing this condition for them. Be comforting and soothing and avoid becoming agitated, even when you are caring for someone who is in distress themselves.