I have always had an interest in the workings of the human brain. While at McMaster University, I completed my research thesis on the ability of vitamins and minerals to off-set cognitive decline, which peaked my interest in the subject matter early on in my educational career. The combination of my work in retirement homes, my clinical experience working with persons with dementia who are sun downing (a common finding whereby confusion and disorientation in persons with dementia tend to increase when the sun starts to go down, hence its name), as well as my work with their loved ones, has further fueled my interest in the ability to hail the later years of our lives with all of our cognitive faculties in tact and my interest in examining strategies to improve quality of life for persons with dementia as well as our much-loved and appreciated caregivers.
Selected Naturopathic Strategies to Ease Sundowning
Check-in to see if the person is trying to communicate hunger, thirst, discomfort or a need to toilet and therapeutic touch to bring reassurance and remind the person of who you are and your presence.
If the person is ambulatory, or able to walk with assistance safely, try to incorporate exercise earlier on in the day to reduce restlessness later in the afternoon and early evening.
Expose the patient to natural light in order to maintain their vitamin D stores and to help entrain circadian levels needed for sleep-wake cycles. As the sun goes down, ensure the person’s surroundings are well-lighted to reduce shadows that can mask common objects and create confusion or disorientation.
Minimize sugar intake, which can lead to an aggravation in moods due to the fluctuation in glucose levels.
Experiment with soothing herbal teas, including chamomile and passion flower.
Encourage feelings of self-efficacy by providing persons with bite-sized foods, in smaller meal proportions. The act of eating may help soothe agitation.
Ask your Naturopathic Doctor about nutrients including melatonin, which are safe alternatives to sleeping aids because they don’t interfere with REM sleep or produce that groggy “morning-after hangover”.