A KSDK news report examines the challenges some Alzheimer’s patients may experience with the transition of daylight to dusk and coping strategies for this issue.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that affects a person’s memory, thoughts, speech and ability to handle everyday activities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, more than 20 percent experience increased confusion, anxiety and agitation beginning mid-afternoon to early evening. This phenomenon is known as sundowning.
Along with increased behavioral changes late in the day, many people with Alzheimer’s also experience changes in their sleep schedule and have trouble staying asleep at night.
The level of restlessness and sleep disruption for patients with Alzheimer’s depends on the stage of the disease. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is common for those in the early stages of the disease to sleep for long periods of time and wake up confused. As the disease progresses, patients usually begin to sleep more during the day and awaken during odd hours of the night.
When the disease is in its advanced stages, patients tend to sleep for short periods of time, both during the day and night, indicating a change in their circadian rhythm – the daily cycling of body temperature, sleep, wakefulness and metabolism.