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”.
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.
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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