Alzheimer’s patients often have problems with sleeping or may experience changes in their sleep schedule know as sundowning.

Sundown syndrome is a neurologically based condition associated with increased restlessness and confusion in patients with some form of dementia. Most commonly related to Alzheimer’s disease, but also found in those with other types of dementia, the timing of the patient’s confusion led to the term sundowning. For patients with sundown syndrome, a multitude of behavioral problems begin to occur in the evening or while the sun is setting. Research shows that 20–45% of Alzheimer’s patients will experience some sundowning confusion.

Sleep issues and sundown syndrome can be challenging for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Scientists fail to understand completely why these sleep disturbances occur. There are, however, some other measures to try to restore healthy sleep patterns for seniors. When trying to manage sleep changes, the first step should always be non-drug coping strategies.

Suggestions For Creating An Inviting Sleeping Environment And Promoting Rest For A Person With Alzheimer’s:
  • Encourage exercising daily and do so early in the day.
  • Exposure to the morning sunlight is imperative.
  • Follow a regularly scheduled routine for bedtime, wake-up time and meals.
  • Keep the bedroom a comfortable temperature, with soft lighting from nightlights.
  • Remove caffeine and alcohol from the diet, and avoid nicotine as well.
  • Use the bed only for sleep, if unable to sleep and is restless, then get out of the bed. The bed should be a place of rest only.
  • During wakeful times, find quiet, calming activities to engage in, but avoid watching TV.

When these alternative methods are no longer working, there are a number of different medications that the doctor may prescribe. However, studies show that sleep medications do not improve the overall sleep quality in older adults. Also, these drugs cause a greater chance of falls. Often, the risks that may outweigh the benefits of treatment. Also, remember that a plan that works now may not be as effective as the condition progresses – and vice versa.

Caregivers Get Some Rest With An Overnight Program For Dementia Patients.

One particular project offers a solution: overnight care that caters specifically to those with dementia and sundowning challenges. Described as a slumber party setting, aging adults participate while in a protected environment in a wide variety of structured activities: puzzles, music and dancing, food preparation, and more. This program provides family caregivers a much-appreciated opportunity to get sleep themselves. “Many family members want to care for relatives with Alzheimer’s at home, but in order to do that, the caregivers themselves have to remain healthy. You cannot stay healthy if you don’t get a good night’s sleep,” explains Ruth Drew of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Perhaps you are a family caregiver and are looking for some rest? Consider an overnight program for dementia patients from Hibernian Home Care. Having care by a Certified Home Health Aide can help restore peace to evening hours for seniors struggling with dementia and sundowning. For more information about individualized Home Care services throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey, fill out the Contact Us form or call us at 732-481-1148.