Dementia: Signs of Alzheimer’s ‘beginning at dusk and continuing throughout the night’

Dementia: Dr Sara on benefits of being in nature

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There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being one of the most common, meaning symptoms also vary. Early diagnosis means its progression can be slowed down in some cases, so it is important to spot the signs early. Research shows there are more than 850,000 people in the UK who have dementia.

Perhaps the most well known sign is memory loss, though there are also a number of changes which can occur in a person’s mood and personality.

The NHS says that dementia symptoms may also include problems with language, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speaking, as well as movement and difficulties doing daily activities.

The Alzheimer’s Association states: “People living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia may have problems sleeping or experience increased confusion, anxiety, agitation, pacing and disorientation beginning at dusk and continuing throughout the night.”

It notes that this is referred to as “sundowning”.

“Although the exact cause is unknown, these changes result from the disease’s impact on the brain,” it adds.

It says that several factors may contribute to sleep disturbances and sundowning.

These include mental and physical exhaustion from a full day trying to keep up with an unfamiliar or confusing environment.

It suggests: “Discuss sleep disturbances with a doctor to help identify causes and possible solutions.”

The Mayo Clinic suggests that many older adults have problems sleeping, but people with dementia often “have an even harder time”.

The site suggests that sleep disturbance may affect up to 25 percent of people with mild to moderate dementia and 50 percent of people with severe dementia.

“Sleep disturbances tend to get worse as dementia progresses in severity,” it notes.

Some dementia risk factors are impossible to change, such as age and genetics, however research suggests other risk factors may also be important, and may be possible to change.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that to reduce your risk you should take care of your mental and physical health.

“This includes getting your recommended health screenings, managing chronic health issues such as depression or high cholesterol, and regularly checking in with your health care provider,” the NIA states.

Moreover, your sleep is very important. Indeed, the organisation says sleeping well is “important for both your mind and body”.

It says that you should try to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Talk with your doctor if you are not getting enough sleep, sleeping poorly, or think you may have a sleep disorder.

The Alzheimer’s Society (AS) says that although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk.

Indeed the NHS concurs that risk factors such as hearing loss, untreated depression, loneliness or social isolation, or sitting for most of the day, may also be important.

“The research concluded that by modifying the risk factors we are able to change, our risk of dementia could be reduced by around a third,” the health body says.

It adds that experts agree that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain, meaning that you can help reduce your risk of dementia by keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level.

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