Evening Syndrome: What Is It?

Evening syndrome can improve if the patient is exposed to natural sunlight during the early hours of the morning.
Evening Syndrome: What Is It?

Last update: 11 December, 2020

A person with evening syndrome feels agitated and disorientated in the late afternoon. It goes on during the night and can produce anxiety and irritation in those who suffer it.

Evening syndrome is a disorder that affects almost 20% of the people who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia; it consists of a decline in a person’s cognitive abilities.

Alzheimer’s causes memory, thinking, behavior and many more cognitive functions to be altered. It’s a progressive disorder that ends up disabling people and affects almost 10% of the elderly over 65.

Due to its incidence and importance, in this article we’ll explain what evening syndrome is and how to treat it.

What is evening syndrome?

Woman with evening syndrome.

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, evening syndrome is a period of disorientation that usually appears during the afternoon and which can last until night time. It affects people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, it usually appears in those who are in the intermediate stage of this disease.

Professionals still haven’t determined why this syndrome appears. Some studies indicate that it’s caused by an alteration of the circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms refers to that “internal clock” that allows us to control the cycles of rest and vigilance.

These rhythms are controlled by an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Its function is based on a substance called melatonin. Specialists believe that evening syndrome is due to the fact that, in Alzheimer’s disease, this area is altered.

When this area is damaged, the amount of melatonin is modified and the entire biological clock is altered. This is the reason why the person feels confused and disoriented.

However, it’s also related to other factors. For example, specialists believe that fatigue, hunger, and thirst also influence this syndrome. Similarly, dimmer light at these times, pain, and discomfort are also associated with evening syndrome.

Symptoms

We must understand that evening syndrome isn’t actually a disease. It’s a set of symptoms that occur during the afternoon. In addition, it’s important to understand that it can also occur in other dementias, not only in Alzheimer’s.

Evening syndrome mainly causes disorientation and anxiety. Nevertheless, it can also produce aggressiveness or cause the person who suffers from it to wander around their home.

Those who suffer it sometimes try to rip their clothes or to throw objects. In fact, they may try to hurt themselves and scream. Some are very sleepy during the day and more active at night.

Elderly woman holding hands.

Tips for coping with evening syndrome

There are no specifics measures to prevent evening syndrome, but there are a number of actions that can help reduce or avoid the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. You should always go to a doctor for professional advice, but we can suggest the following tips:

  • Try to expose the person who suffers it to natural sunlight early in the morning. This regulates the circadian rhythms. If this isn’t possible, try doing it with artificial light.
  • Ideally, don’t let the patient sleep during the day. To do this, plan simple activities or easy exercises; in that way, you can rest better during the night.
  • Mind the patient’s diet, reduce how many sweets the person eats, and eliminate caffeine altogether. They shouldn’t have a very big dinner, since heavy digestion always influences rest.
  • At bedtime, try to make the atmosphere as relaxed as possible. People with Alzheimer’s shouldn’t be subject to physical restraints, as they cause fear and even greater agitation.
  • Try to create stable routines and schedules for meals and activities.

Of course, we must give the person who suffers from evening syndrome with much love and build their trust. We must also try to help them feel as relaxed as possible. In addition, we must try to ensure that the person always has familiar objects close by. Whenever possible, avoid moving houses, as this can cause them a great deal of stress.

In conclusion

If someone close to you suffers from Alzheimer’s and you think they may be experiencing evening syndrome, you should visit your doctor for advice.

Although it’s hard, try to remain calm and transmit as much peace as possible. Try to establish daily routines for meals and activities, and above all, control sleeping hours.

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