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Does Daylight Savings Affect Sundowner’s Syndrome?

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenMarch 9, 2015
Does Daylight Savings Time Affect Sundowner's Syndrome?

Light is a huge factor that works with our natural circadian rhythms, so there’s no surprise that people who suffer from Sundowner’s Syndrome are affected by daylight saving time (DST). Learn more about the effects of daylight savings on Sundowner’s Syndrome.

Daylight Savings and Sundowners Syndrome

“Spring forward. Fall back.” If you’re a caregiver for someone who suffers from Sundowner’s Syndrome, resetting the clock for daylight savings may have caused you some grief. DST enables us to take advantage of more light in the evening in the spring, and daylight in the mornings in the fall; and light is a welcome advantage on both of these occasions. Unfortunately, those with loved ones who suffer from Sundowner’s are affected  by this change.

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While Sundowner’s symptoms are largely a mystery to medical science, if you are a caregiver dealing with your elderly loved one’s irritability, moodiness and anxiety in the evening hours, you may be pulling your hair out trying to battle the change in darkness.

There’s a Reason It’s Called “Sun-Downer’s”

The human brain is complex. Neurotransmitters constantly firing; the different lobes controlling and channeling the creative, technical, analytic, emotional centers of every day life. Sleep and wake habits all influence this intriguing dance of a functional human mind. When someone suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or deterioration in the cerebral cortex, it’s no surprise that daylight negatively influences the functionality of an already un-sound mind and, therefore, body and behavior.

Descarte’s quote, “I think therefore I am” sheds light (pun intended) on this complex and very scientific subject. Productive human activity typically occurs during daylight hours. This is why society has scheduled normal work hours during this time. Brains function better during the day, when it is typically light. Even healthy people in their prime are often moody at night. As mentioned in a previous post on Sundowner’s, children — who don’t know any better — tend to act up at night. So when someone has a cognitive disorder, it only makes sense that darkness in tandem with exhaustion propagates behavioral issues.

Natural circadian rhythms that make humans function, respond to the loss of sunlight. It’s a very human response to be more depressed at night. But these issues on top of Seasonal Effective Disorder are heightened in dementia sufferers. Naturopathic Physician and A Place for Mom Nutrition Expert, Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born comments:

“People tend to feel tired and overwhelmed as the day progresses, either from over-stimulation or exhaustion. Basically the brain gets tired, especially for those who suffer from dementia, after being awake for many hours, and a decrease in light or change in routine, often accompanied by daylight savings time, affects this. Depression goes hand-in-hand with darkness, as well, which is why even healthy humans suffer from depression and have trouble with daily functioning in the winter. For those who suffer from Sundowner’s symptoms such as pacing and wandering, feelings of agitation or being overwhelmed; seasonality and daylight savings time can definitely impact earlier symptoms, which is why it’s so important to maintain a regular schedule and do things to lessen the impact of loss of light for these individuals.”

Here are some tips for ways to help soothe Sundowner’s symptoms for your loved one.

Has your loved one been affected by daylight savings? Do you have any recommendations for how to handle Sundowner’s symptoms during this time? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen

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