In this eighth installment of brief excerpts from each chapter in the book You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, we look at the seventh step in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
This post includes an excerpt from chapter 7, which provides a comprehensive look at how to acknowledge, recognize, and respond to the seventh step in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease: sleep changes and disruptions.
This chapter shows that changes to sleep patterns and sleep disturbances, which includes sundowning, are all part of the seventh step in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s disease.
This chapter also discusses how this step impacts our loved ones and us as caregivers and the practical, real-time, and loving ways we as caregivers should respond and help our loved ones walk through this step in the journey.
This series begins with the forward to the book and an explanation of why I wrote this book and why you should read it.
The steps in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease are presented sequentially in the order in which they actually appear in the course of these neurological diseases.
There are no other books that literally walk through each step in sequential order as they emerge in the journey through dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Additionally, there is no other book that discusses:
- The process we as caregivers acknowledge each new step – there is an acceptance period that we have to go through
- The process we use to guide ourselves and our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease through the recognition phase of each step
- The concrete, loving, and practical information on how we should respond and how we can help guide our loved ones’ responses
These are the things that make You Oughta Know: Acknowledging, Recognizing, and Responding to the Steps in the Journey Through Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease unique and stand alone in the plethora of books about dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Excerpt “Chapter 7: ‘Don’t Know If It’s Day Or Night’”
“Changes and disruptions in sleep are the next step in the journey our loved ones go through with dementias and Azheimer’s Disease. Included in this step is a phenomenon called sundowning, which we’ll explain the logic and science behind.
But first we need to talk about the science of sleep. All humans have a 24-hour internal clock that is known as our circadian clock (the term circadian rhythm refers to any biological process that completes a 24-hour cycle).
This clock, shown below, is a complex and coordinated system of neurology, hormones, environmental factors, and routines that are established from the time we are born.
Everyone’s circadian clock is unique, but each follows the general pattern shown above. In fact, the clock shown above is the ideal and the circadian clock that humans basically followed until the Industrial Revolution took place in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Since the full transition into the Industrial Revolution, human life and the adherence to this natural circadian clock has been altered and challenged because one of the side-effects of the Industrial Revolution was the development of artificial lighting (gas in the 19th century and electricity in the 20th century), which enabled lighting to be available 24 hours a day.
This was the byproduct of greed that served the captains of industry well (instead of limiting work hours to daylight hours only, artificial lighting enabled factories, foundries, mining operations, etc. to operate on a 24/7 schedule), but the human race definitely got the short end of the stick here.
Because the body is designed genetically, neurologically, hormonally, and environmentally to function in sync with the 24-hour circadian clock shown above, disrupted sleep and sleep deprivation has a chaotic effect on the body, even in otherwise-healthy people.
Time and again, science and medicine have shown a significant increase in accidents and serious injuries among shift workers who work at night. This includes not only production workers, but also professionals such as medical personnel. There is also a considerable amount of evidence that shows night shift workers are much likely to be injured or killed in driving accidents because they have a higher incidence of falling asleep behind the wheel going to and from work.
The most disruptive shift to the human body is the graveyard shift (usually 11 pm to 7 am). By the time these workers start their shift, the body is fully prepared (the hormone melatonin relaxes the body and mind for sleep beginning around 9 pm) to sleep. Forcing the body to do the complete opposite of what is it naturally designed to do is often counterproductive and very destructive to human health.”