Preparing for Daylight Savings

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Next weekend, we will all set our clocks ahead an hour as Daylight Savings Time starts.

For most of us, the extra hour of light in the evening is worth the price of getting one less hour of sleep on Saturday night. However, for those with Alzheimer’s disease, the seasonal adjustment can lead to a period of increased agitation and confusion.

Those with Alzheimer’s can be hypersensitive to light. Being in a well-lit environment appears to correlate with calmer moods and more engagement. For reasons we don’t understand, some Alzheimer’s patients experience “sundowning” in the late afternoon and become increasingly agitated and restless as the bright daylight fades.

So changing the clock just by an hour can cause significant disruption in this population. If you think the change may cause problems for your family, plan now for next weekend. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get More exercise. Make a point of getting fresh air and exercise during the week following the time shift. It is likely to lead to sounder sleep.
  • Avoid napping. If your circadian rhythm is disrupted, napping will extend the period of confusion. Try to keep the level of engagement high and if a nap is needed, keep it short.
  • Adjust meal and bedtimes. One way to ease the transition is to anticipate the time change by moving ahead meal times and bedtimes by 5-8 minutes each day this week. The incremental change should have very little effect on a person’s internal clock, and it will shorten the amount of time it takes to fully transition to a new time zone. If your schedule allows it, you can also extend the time it takes you to move to Daylight Savings Time, so you can move the schedule ahead for 5 minutes each day for 10 days if you think it will make the adjustment easier.

Once your family has internally moved over to Daylight Savings, you can fully enjoy the brighter afternoons and evenings as we welcome Spring.

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