More than 50 million people worldwide have some form of dementia., a figure that is expected to increase in the coming years. Although scientific research does not stand still, and more and more studies are being published on this topic.
One of the most common and common disorders among people who have Alzheimer’s, although it can also occur among people who suffer from seasonal depression, is what is known as sunset syndrome or sundwning.
This syndrome is characterized by during hours of less natural light (more common in winter and autumn), people who suffer from it feel more sadness, anxiety and irritability. As they explain on the Amavir website, this is because these people secrete less melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone.
In addition, it is important to know that these cognitive changes cause a change in the internal biological clock and, therefore, people who suffer from it lose track of time and do not know if it is time to wake up or go to bed. to sleep. This confusion of not knowing what time it is generates anxiety and restlessness in the elderly. This situation occurs at sunset time, and in the most severe cases they can cause paranoia and hallucinations.
Why does it occur at sunset?
People with dementia have damaged parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling circadian rhythms and tend to have the lowest levels of melatonin.
circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycleand that normally respond to light and dark, hence why we sleep at night and wake up during the day, explains the website of National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
In addition to these two factors, we must include the alteration of the hypothalamus, which regulates the biological clock and circadian rhythms. And another important factor: the elderly have more fragmented and superficial sleep. In this sense, as we age, our normal sleep cycle is alteredand so they tend to wake up more during the night.
Can it be avoided?
The truth is that experts do not have the magic formula to avoid this syndrome, but they have released a series of tips and recommendations that can help patients and their families. Reduce the noise level, be more exposed to natural light, don’t sleep during the day and have a routineare some of the keys.
In this sense, lighting is very important because, as we mentioned earlier, poor exposure to natural light is the key to triggering this syndrome. To prevent this from becoming a problem, it is necessary to keep good lighting at home and going out in the morningwhen there is light
From Amavir, they shared a series of tips to help people with dementia and their caregivers:
- Create a favorable environment. The most important thing is that the person is in a safe and quiet place. In this case, it is also advisable to have a good lighting system that can be adjusted as night falls.
- The importance of routine: keeping people with dementia distracted and active is essential to avoid this syndrome. Therefore, it is advisable to have a fixed schedule for meals and activities, and to create a nighttime routine before going to bed, which can help the elderly to sleep peacefully in bed.
- Go to the doctor. It is essential to know that people who have this syndrome are monitored by a doctor, to find out what their needs are and, in the most serious cases, some medications are prescribed.
- The feeding. Once again, a balanced diet is fundamental to avoid malnutrition and thus avoid a situation of agitation. Likewise, processed foods and stimulants should be avoided as they also do not contribute to improving people’s physical and mental state.
- Physical activity. As we said at the beginning, having an active life is very beneficial for patients, and thus avoiding situations of physical deterioration and dependence.
- Mental health. As we already know, these types of illnesses can also cause mental health problems, so it is also necessary to go to a professional to know the emotional state of the patient.
- Socialize. There are many studies that show the importance of socialization and in this case it would be no less. It is necessary that the elderly continue to maintain interpersonal relationships and not isolate themselves.