Apr 5, 2021
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Setting sun syndrome: how does it manifest in people with dementia?

The evening time of the day is often perceived ambiguously by people. So, some people think that there is an ominous meaning in the coming darkness, while others rejoice at the sunset as the end of the day and the opportunity to spend a quiet and relaxed evening. But there is a separate category of people for whom the sunset can be painfully frightening. These include people with dementia. And there is even a special label for their worrying concern: setting sun syndrome. What he is, how he manifests himself and how to cope with him, told Yulia Rubleva, Candidate of Medical Sciences, Senior Researcher, Department of Epilepsy and Paroxysmal Diseases, Federal Center for Brain and Neurotechnology, FMBA of Russia.

What is the essence of the problem

“According to the definition of the World Health Organization, dementia is a syndrome in which there is a progressive decrease in thinking abilities (memory, understanding, speech and the ability to navigate, count, cognize and reason) to a greater extent than is expected with normal aging,” the specialist notes … According to statistics, she says, there are about 50 million people with dementia in the world, and up to 10 million new cases of the disease occur every year. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (60-70% of all cases), but there are many other forms.

Against the background of dementia, people can develop various pathological conditions.

Setting sun syndrome

“One of the manifestations of dementia is the setting sun syndrome, or sunset syndrome. It is characterized by fluctuations in the level of consciousness and the appearance in the evening of episodes of excitement, anxiety, disorientation. Clinical studies have also shown a deterioration in gait and balance in the evening, ”says Yulia Rubleva.

In addition, as the specialist notes, patients with dementia often experience changes in circadian rhythms with frequent nocturnal awakenings, difficulty falling asleep in the evening and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Why is it developing

Of course, many, especially relatives of elderly people with dementia, are concerned about the reasons for this condition. “The causes of this condition include several aspects, both pathophysiological (disturbance of circadian rhythms) and psychological (fatigue at the end of the day, disorientation due to low light, unfamiliar environmental conditions, for example, when in a hospital),” says Yulia Rubleva …

At the same time, not all people diagnosed with dementia are subject to experiences of this kind, as Yulia Rubleva says. However, it is considered a fairly common manifestation in these patients.

Are there any complications?

Also, in connection with the syndrome of the setting sun, the question of potential complications arises. “The symptoms of sunset have an impact not only on the mood of people with dementia, but also on their safety. Night awakening, wandering, and arousal episodes increase the risk of injury, unintentional harm to oneself and others (for example, due to improper handling of household appliances and gas), and leaving home. The load on the people caring for the patient also increases, ”says Yulia Rubleva.

How to deal with the problem?

Due to the fact that this syndrome worries elderly patients with dementia, and also increases the burden on the relatives of such a patient, the issue of correcting the situation, treatment or prevention is of particular relevance.

“To reduce the severity of the setting sun syndrome, experts recommend providing the patient with the most comfortable environment: patient and benevolent attitude, soothing phrases, sufficient lighting. It is also necessary to maintain regular physical activity, limiting daytime sleep. In some cases, medical attention may be required to prescribe drug therapy, ”says Yulia Rubleva.

It is important to remember that there should not be any self-therapy with medications. All appointments must be made by a doctor based on examinations and studying the patient’s medical history.

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