Daylight Saving Challenges for Seniors

Daylight Saving is right around the corner! On November 5th, we’ll be “falling back” one hour. While some are happy to have this extra hour of sleep, this time change can present a few challenges for our aging citizens. From altered sleep schedules to Sundowners syndrome, it’s important to remember that even small changes in sleep habits can negatively affect your health.

Changes in Bedtime Routines

With the sun now rising and setting at a significantly different time, it’s often harder for seniors to adjust their sleep schedules. Interruption in regular sleep patterns is by far the biggest problem following a daylight-saving time shift. Even a small change in your sleep schedule can knock your natural circadian rhythm out of whack. ( For some, it can take up to three weeks to recover from the sleep schedule changes, according to a 2009 study in the Journal Sleep Medicine. (Business Insider)

Tip: As with anyone who experiences a change in a sleep routine it’s important to set and stick to alarms. Although the first few days may be a difficult adjustment, setting an alarm to wake up each morning at the same time can help to bring the body back into a circadian rhythm. Setting a bedtime reminder is also a great way to keep to a consistent routine.

Sundowners Syndrome

Daylight Saving also brings challenges to those seniors who may be suffering from “Sundowners Syndrome.” According to Healthline, “Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It’s also known as “late-day confusion.” If someone you care for has dementia, their confusion and agitation may get worse in the late afternoon and evening.”

Tip: With fewer hours of sunlight during the day, be sure to have bright lights turned on as the day grows darker. This can help to alleviate some of the aggravation and frustration with the disruption of their sleep schedules/routines. Staying active throughout the day and avoiding afternoon naps can also help to tire out your loved one and make falling asleep a much easier task at the end of the day.

Additional Daylight Saving Tips

  1. Get outside! Go for a walk through a park or garden, eat lunch outside, or take a stroll down Main Street. Getting more sunlight during the day can help with possible agitation and depression that comes with a Daylight Saving time shift.
  2. Be sure to set alarms for waking at the same time every morning, and reminders in the afternoon or early evening to go to bed at the same time each night.
  3. Avoid extra sugars and caffeinated beverages like coffees or teas in the afternoon. Limit alcohol intake around bedtime to help with sugar levels before trying to fall asleep.
  4. Make sure your loved one’s surroundings are conducive to a good night’s sleep. Is the room dark enough? Is the temperature at a comfortable, if not cooler, setting? Having a comfy and relaxing space could help your loved one fall asleep faster, getting them back on track with their sleep schedule.
  5. Talk to your loved one’s care provider to make sure routines are maintained. From medication routines, to lunches and dinners at or around the same time, keeping to a routine can help to reduce anxiety or frustration for those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

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