Does your loved one become more confused in the later afternoon or evening?
Sundowning, or sundown syndrome, is a neurological phenomenon. Sundowning is not a disease itself, but a group of symptoms/behaviors that occur in the later afternoon and span into the night. Sundowning can cause a variety of behaviors, such as confusion, anxiety, or wandering. There is no exact cause for Sundowning; however, many researchers and professionals believe it is the body’s reaction to not knowing if it is morning or night. This leads to the body being unable to know if it should release hormones and neurotransmitters to wake up or relax. There are a number of non-pharmacological interventions that can be utilized to minimize the symptoms of Sundowning. However, it is important to keep in mind that routine is key when introducing these interventions.
Some ways to manage Sundowning:
- Minimize the use of LED lights, tablets, and TV two hours before bedtime.
- Increase the use of amber lighting (red/yellow) as this fosters melatonin production. Decrease the use of blue lighting during this same time period.
- Use non-biharmonic music. This is music that uses a single instrument such as a violin or a cello (not a piano).
- In a strange or unfamiliar setting, bring familiar items — such as photographs or a favorite throw pillow — to create a more relaxed and familiar setting.
- As a caregiver, try to put on pajamas two hours before your loved one’s bedtime. This works as a visual trigger to help foster sleep cycles in the brain.
- Minimize daytime napping.
- Limit caffeine to morning hours.
- Initiate a routine exercise program. This does not have to be for long periods of time but 10-20 minutes at a time of working on flexibility, strength, balance or endurance.
- Initiate the use of essential oils. Lavender is shown to help with sleep.
For free Geriatric Life Coaching on how to manage Sundowning in your home, reach out to us at CERTUS Senior Living.
For additional resources and information about Sundowning, visit one of the links below:
- Sundowning: Late-day confusion
- Sleep Issues and Sundowning
- Tips for Coping with Sundowning
- How to Manage “Sundowning”