What is Sundowners Syndrome?

There are many problems that can arise as one gets older. As our body ages, many bodily functions begin to deteriorate, causing a whole plethora of diseases.

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Sundowner’s syndrome is a side effect that commonly plagues patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. As day turns into night, the minds of patients with Sundowner’s syndrome become more active, causing them to feel confused and agitated.

Long term effects of Sundowner’s syndrome cause further deterioration in the patient’s personality, memory, and mood. Patients often experience behavioural problems that come with episodes of fits, aggressiveness, hallucinations, etc. with chances of hurting themselves and everyone around them.

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To have an even more in-depth understanding of Sundowner’s syndrome and management tips, keep reading!

What causes Sundowners Syndrome?

Patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia are commonly affected by Sundowner’s syndrome. In fact, around 20% of Alzheimer’s patients are known to experience some degree of Sundowner’s syndrome. Patients with these diseases often face a lot of confusion throughout the day, with their minds working in overload trying to comprehend problems with reasoning and processing.

By evening time, they are physically and mentally exhausted, causing disruption to regular body functions including their internal body clock. All this causes further disruptions to the patient’s sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. Night becomes perceived as day, and day becomes perceived as night.

Other causes of Sundowner’s syndrome

Besides underlying causes like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, there are other things that can trigger Sundowner’s syndrome such as changes in sleeping and waking patterns, hormonal imbalances, drastic changes in the environment, low lighting, stress, and wearing off of medication throughout the day.

A history of alcohol or substance abuse is also a risk factor, with patients often experiencing more severe symptoms of Sundowners syndrome.

Coping methods for Sundowner’ syndrome

While it isn’t classified as a disease, Sundowner’s syndrome is a serious illness that has an overall negative effect on patients and their carers. Seeing someone you love who was so full of life just a few years ago, turn into someone who struggles to do even the most basic daily activities is not easy.

However, we must do all we can to understand what these patients are going through and learn to create an ideal environment to ease their confusion by following these simple steps below:

Create a safe and comfortable environment

Patients with Sundowner’s syndrome often become easily confused, causing them to feel lost and scared. Therefore, you should ensure that they have a comfortable and safe environment to ease their episodes. You can keep the room comfortable by ensuring that it is at a comfortable temperature.

And as for safety, ensure that there is ample lighting so that they always feel safe. To prevent them from wandering out of the house alone, motion sensors are a good idea to alert family members. Doing this will prevent your loved one from becoming discombobulated on the streets and getting lost.

Routine

One of the main triggers of Sundowners is changing such as changes in the environment, sleeping patterns, etc. Thus, it is important for patients to have a daily schedule and stick to it as much as possible. This schedule should include set times for meals, stimulating activities, and most importantly set times for sleeping and waking.

Lighting

Low lighting is another trigger of Sundowners as it creates shadows that play on the minds of patients, contributing to their already vivid hallucinations. Adequate lighting reduces agitation as your loved one will feel safer.

Avoid stimulants

Stimulants such as substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol cause sleep disruptions and should be avoided at all costs. Watching television at night is also a stimulant as it keeps the patient’s mind awake, causing them difficulties to fall asleep and thus disrupting their sleep schedule.

Plan activities during the day

Keeping active throughout the day is crucial for patients with Sundowner’s so that when night rolls around, they become tired and are ready for bed. You can plan simple activities such as bathing, daily exercise, supervised walks, doctor visits while discouraging afternoon naps. Exercise should be planned no later than four hours before bedtime as it can also cause patients to feel over-stimulated during bedtime.

If you think your loved one is experiencing Sundowner’s syndrome, keep a calm head, and approach them with care. Put yourself in their shoes, imagine waking up one day and forgetting everything you once knew. It is one of the most difficult things one can endure for both patients and their loved ones. To ease the process, you can begin by understanding the illness by implementing the suggestions above and keeping a positive head.

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