Jan 31, 2018

Twilight Zone: Does the Moon Affect People with Dementia?

When a person has dementia, they may experience significant behaviour changes as a part of their condition.

This can be attributed to a number of causes, it could be symptoms of their dementia or other changes in their condition, it could be because of changes to their medication, for some it may be because of changes in their environment.

Many people have heard of “sundowning” when it comes to dementia – where people become more confused, restless or insecure late in the afternoon or early evening – which is connected to the setting of the sun.

But does the moon also play a part in people’s behaviour? Yes, in fact research has found that in some ways it does.

There have been old wives tales about how the moon affects people’s moods. In some cases, it’s believed that the moon can “make people go crazy”.

Losing Sleep and More Aggression?

Though the suggestion that a person might be going crazy is a bit extreme, according to research the moon does affect people’s sleep.

Sleep researcher Christian Cajochen, at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel in Switzerland, said “the lunar cycle seems to influence human sleep, even when one does not see the moon and is not aware of the actual moon phase”.

It was found that, on average, people also took five minutes longer on average to fall asleep, and they slept for 20 minutes less overall on full-moon nights.

There’s a common myth that people become more aggressive during full moons, and one research even went to suggest that criminal activity increases during this time.

However, there is little modern research that supports this idea, especially in the elderly. Aggressive behaviours in older people are more often due to an unmet need, or some frustration that they are unable to communicate.

Overall, during the full moon people aren’t getting more aggressive but we are losing sleep.

But does the moon affect dementia?

One research looked to see if aged care residents became increasingly agitated during a full moon, but concluded that there was not a significant difference to other phases of the moon.

However, another study by Alan M. Beck of Purdue University found that Alzheimer’s disease exhibited “significantly more behaviours during periods of full moon, and that these behaviours were of a greater duration during the full moon.”

Though the research connecting the full moon and behavioural changes in people with dementia can be rather inconclusive, many people have experienced challenges that they would connect to lunar changes.

It should be noted that the full moon does cause atmospheric pressure and that may account for a shift in bodily awareness. For some people, the bright light shining outside might be upsetting.

Regardless of whether the night has a full moon, new moon or something in between – people with dementia need the same compassionate care every day for whatever symptoms they are exhibiting.

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  1. My husband is ina he fir the elderly and the two owners say the Dement patients holler during full moon not later all nite

  2. I Have observed that Sundowning can happen when light levels barely change eg 16:00 on a summers day and seems to be more about the brain getting tired. But getting agitated about the feeling of “once needing to cook dinner” or being home for some reason like children coming home can trigger it. A lifetime of anxiety builds up. But a Sundowning episode can also be brought on in an instant when walking in to a darker room say from the garden and the feeling of what to do next. Light wall coverings are essential, brown brick walls
    “& things like brown plants & fallen leaves” can upset the balance too. The fear of unlocked doors probably relates all the way back to self-preservation in the wild.
    I found the episode’s lasted an hour or two between 15:30 & 18:30 and then passed. As the disease goes on the episodes may last longer, happen later and lead to nocturnal behaviour. Late stage. Try to keep bed times routine and maybe sit with them till there settled or sleeping. Good luck.

  3. I wonder why the short term memory fails so often & the long term stays, some people with this condition struggle to pick up what your saying to them, strangely like a child struggling to pick up something there being taught. Could it be the problem always exists in some people. or the anxiety of life makes the brain shut down and refuse to take more info.

  4. My husband has Dimentia with Lewey Bodies. The full moon does affect his thinking he becomes more confused and has more hallucinations that last much longe


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