Sundowner’s syndrome is a disorder that primarily affects people over 50. It causes insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and hallucinations, among others, making it hard to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. If you are dealing with sundowner’s syndrome or want to know how to help someone who is, the following tips can help reduce symptoms and take care of yourself or your loved one.
Identify Your Triggers
In most cases, no one knows precisely what causes sundowning to start. Sometimes, it’s caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and happens when your loved one is upset, stressed out, or experiencing physical pain. Other times, it may not be related to any condition at all but rather is a symptom of aging in general. Regardless of why you’re experiencing sundowning syndrome, a few tips can help you manage your loved one during those twilight hours: Whatever your triggers may be, paying attention to them will help you avoid (or lessen) sundowning behavior in your loved one. Remember that it isn’t something you can necessarily prevent on your own; instead, try talking to your doctor about what might work best for you.
Create Structure in the Day
Because their circadian rhythm is off, people with sundowners have trouble falling asleep and waking up. To make it easier to fall asleep, create a routine in the evenings, set a bedtime, read in bed, or even avoid electronics. When it comes to rising time, use an alarm clock and be firm about sticking to it. Although the body will likely tell you otherwise (we often tend to sleep in when we’re feeling tired), forcing yourself out of bed at the same time every day is vital for establishing structure in your day. As with many things related to the syndrome, it will be harder for you than anyone else—but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it!
Getting outdoors can make you feel refreshed and more alert. But also, being in nature helps you feel connected to others as you belong to a greater community than just yourself. There are a lot of factors that cause depression and anxiety, but it might not be something we think about when it comes to dealing with SDS. Getting outside for a few minutes each day can make a huge difference!
Get Quality Rest
Getting good rest is important to prevent sundowning. If your loved one seems agitated at night, try to make a list of reasons why he or she might be having trouble sleeping and then work together on strategies to improve sleep quality. If they’re not getting enough exercise during daytime hours, it can lead to poor sleep quality as well. Don’t forget that helping your loved one develop good bedtime habits and putting away all electronics an hour before bed will help them get into a routine that supports better sleep at night. You might even want to encourage your family member to take up a new hobby or activity before bed—going for a walk in nature can do wonders for relaxing our brains as we head into sleep mode!
Seeking support is vital to managing your condition. It helps you feel less isolated, and it can boost your self-esteem by allowing you to connect with others who understand what you are going through. The first step to finding support is identifying local resources, whether in person or online, where people share symptoms. Reach out. If a group setting isn’t your style, try reaching out to people one-on-one on social media sites like Facebook or YouTube.