It's been a few days since we had to change the clocks back one-hour here in Canada, and some of us may already be feeling the negative effects of it - headaches, mood changes, hunger, and sleep rhythms. This can also be true for how DST affects the elderly in our families and those we care for.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) occurs twice a year - Spring forward and Fall back - and can be quite troublesome to many of us, particularly to our seniors. The elderly, especially those who may suffer from Dementia, are impacted in a variety of ways, such as sleep patterns, medication timing, and even mealtimes.
One of the biggest concerns with the changing of time is how it affects Sundowning.
We explored Sundowning in a previous blog, but essentially it is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that occurs when a loved one becomes agitated, confused, anxious, and restless later in the day as the sun starts to set. It disrupts sleep as many can become confused distinguishing between night and day. With the appearance of DST, it may actually trigger the symptoms of sundowning, causing anxiety, confusion, and frustration.
Their anxiety, agitation, and restlessness are further exacerbated when they feel their mealtimes are changing, sleep times are not quite as they were, and their feeling that something is just "not quite right" with their own rhythms and patterns. This can create an emotional, cognitive, and behavioural response.
How to Help
1. Consistent Sleep
Sleep patterns are critical to the health and wellness of us all during this time of year, so be sure to maintain a routine. A good rule of thumb is to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day
2. Bedroom is for Sleep
Seniors should avoid eating, reading, and watching tv in bed since these distractions can create problems when it's time to fall asleep. Take care to ensure that it's cool, dark, and quiet enough to sleep comfortably.
3. Spend time outside and exercise
Exercise is crucial for fall prevention, but it can also help with the symptoms of seasonal depression. Being outside in natural sunlight helps our bodies regulate natural rhythms and promote balance in the mind and body. Regular physical activity can help seniors fall asleep easier, too.
4. Avoid naps
With the sun going down at 5 PM, naps are always calling. Try to avoid naps at all costs, if possible. Being tired helps seniors to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. If you must nap, try to keep it under 20 minutes.
Finally, be patient. Daylight Savings Time affects us all, but in time, our bodies, minds, and emotions will adapt and get back into its own rhythm again.