Sundowner’s syndrome, also known as sundown syndrome or sundowning, is a condition that often accompanies dementia. The condition causes agitation, confusion, and increased activity during the nighttime. Paired with dementia, which causes memory loss, change in personality, and a decreased ability to reason through logic, Sundowner’s syndrome can pose a challenge to both the caregiver and the individual affected.
Based on research, Medical News Today composed a list of symptoms that frequently occur later in the afternoon, during the evening, and at night. These changes include:
- Reduced attention levels
- Agitation and restlessness
- Sleep disturbance
- Mood changes
It can be worrisome to have an elderly family member or friend gaining extra energy during the nighttime where they may not be as carefully looked after. In fact, the odds of an accident occurring are increased during the late hours when regular monitors are sleeping. Therefore, treatment is important and usually focused on managing the symptoms mentioned above.
For those who are dealing with Sundowner’s syndrome, lifestyle changes are usually employed as the primary approach to treatment. The first change is adding light therapy during day-to-day activities. Light therapy is deliberate exposure to bright artificial light that mimics the sun, thereby stimulating the body’s proper production of sleep and mood hormones. This form of therapy is most useful for patients with depression. It allows them to start their day off right and extend their positive outlook into the night.
Another lifestyle-based treatment is aromatherapy. Lavender, rose, ylang-ylang and chamomile scents have been found to have calming effects on the body and mind. Scents like orange, grapefruit, and lemon promote energy and wakefulness in the early parts of the day. Alternating between these two scent types at appropriate times can help someone suffering from sundowner’s syndrome realign their energy levels.
It’s no secret that heavy use of medications can have a negative effect on the patient, however, if a lifestyle-based treatment should prove ineffective, there are some medications that can be utilized to treat sundowners.
The first option is to take antipsychotic medication. This form of medication is meant to combat feelings of agitation and behavioral symptoms associated with the condition. It may also have sedative effects which could help stabilize the patient’s sleep pattern.
Another option is to supplement with synthetic melatonin. While melatonin does not have any conclusive evidence of its many benefits, it has been found to help improve sleep patterns. This allows patients struggling with sundowners to get better sleep and avoid some of the restlessness linked to the condition.
Dementia paired with sundowner’s syndrome can be difficult for a caregiver to handle. In hopes of keeping the patient naturally relaxed, one should first implement lifestyle changes and then look to medications for treatment.
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