Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s 3:00 in the morning, and mom is awake again. You try to ignore her shuffles through the hallway, but your mind can’t rest thinking about how she might walk out the front door, turn on the stove or accidentally trip and fall in the living room. You try to approach her to get her back to bed, but she’s confused, muttering under her breath and seemingly impossible to redirect.
What your mom is experiencing is likely Sundowner’s Syndrome. This is a condition often associated with early stage Alzheimer’s. It causes mood and sleep disorders, and people who experience it have a difficult time telling the difference between night and day. They often become agitated in the late afternoon and early evening, lack a true schedule for sleeping and awake time and can be difficult for family and professional caregivers to assist.
If your family is losing sleep because of Alzheimer’s induced Sundowner’s Syndrome, here are a few strategies to try tonight. They might just help you get a little more rest.
Dim the Lighting
Bright lights can wreak havoc on the body’s internal clock and make it more difficult to detect night from day. As bedtime nears and then until morning hours, make sure the lights in your home are dim and relaxing. Keep your mom’s bedroom dark, perhaps with the exception of a small nightlight, to help her feel more relaxed so she can fall and stay asleep.
A light massage can help the body rest and your mom to get back to sleep. Warm some lotion between your palms, and then use it to lightly rub your mom’s shoulders, back, neck or feet. Be careful to keep your touch light, and always watch her for indications that she’s not enjoying the massage or would prefer you massage a different part of the body.
Some aromatherapy oils can help to calm the mind and induce sleep. Mix a couple of drops of lavender or vanilla oil with a generous amount of almond or olive oil, and then gently rub some of the mixture along mom’s wrists or temple. Avoid putting the oil on her fingers, however, as this can burn and cause discomfort if she touches her eyes.
Sometimes a simple distraction is all it takes to get mom to forget about wandering the house and return to bed. If you have a cat, ask her to sit and pet it for five minutes. Perhaps offer a warm cup of tea. Engage in a few minutes of light conversation. Keep the distraction short, and remember that your ultimate goal is to get everyone back to sleep.
Check for Pain
Ask mom if she’s feeling any pain. If so, addressing it might help. Remember that she might not be coherent during this time or even able to recognize that she is in pain. So, also watch for body language such as posture and facial expressions to see if some level of pain may be causing her to lose sleep.
As you’re working to get mom back to sleep, remember to stay calm and reassuring. It is difficult to constantly get up in the middle of the night, but this isn’t something she is doing on purpose. If this isn’t something you can manage alone, recognize that too. Hiring a homecare professional like Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley is an effective step that many families take to help address Sundowner’s Syndrome and let everyone get a little more rest.