Night can be a frightening time for Seniors who live alone. Many Seniors become anxious or scared at night due to physical changes that come with aging. In others, psychological stress or dementia causes night fright. Some Seniors become agitated or aggressive after the sun goes down. Others wake from sleep, confused and afraid.
One type of nighttime agitation is called sundowning. As the sun sets, some Seniors with dementia show changes in behavior, such as acting confused or aggressive. Some may pace the room or wander off. The exact cause of sundowning is unknown but a few factors may include:
- Low light
- Disruptions to circadian rhythms
- Increased shadows
- Being in an unfamiliar environment
Seniors may experience intrusive worry or excessive feelings of dread. Some may have recurring night terrors. These nighttime episodes happen during sleep. The Senior appears to awaken and show signs of fear and agitation. Typically, the sleeper lies down after a few moments and does not recall the episode in the morning. Seniors with depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea are more likely to experience night terrors.
Tips for Reducing Night Fright
Maintaining a predictable schedule for meals, bedtime, and waking helps Seniors feel more comfortable. Keep daytime napping to a minimum. Seniors should also get sun exposure during the day to correct circadian rhythms. Avoid overstimulation in the evening, be it from caffeine or watching TV. Too much stimulation can make it hard for Seniors to maintain proper sleep patterns.
Talk to a health care professional about any possible underlying condition such as urinary tract infection or sleep apnea, which might worsen sundowning behavior. Also, ask if a low dose of melatonin might be right for your loved one. Seeing a therapist can be helpful, primarily when night fright is associated with stress, anxiety, and depression.
A live-in Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aide can help your Senior loved one cope with their fears. Sometimes just having a comforting, familiar presence helps. Moreover, they can maintain a regular schedule of meals, activities and bedtime. The CHHHAs at Anita’s Angels, Inc. are here to help. We are Families Helping Families. Call us at 908-788-9390 to learn how we can help your family.