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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Sound Health: Daylight Saving Time especially disruptive for Alzheimer’s patients

A selection of vintage clocks are displayed at Electric Time Company, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Medfield, Mass.
Charles Krupa
A selection of vintage clocks are displayed at Electric Time Company, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in Medfield, Mass.

It’s time to spring forward by moving clocks ahead one hour on Sunday.

While Daylight Saving Time (DST) only changes time by 60 minutes, it can easily mess with the body’s circadian rhythm that regulates our sleep-wake schedule. This is especially true for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In this edition of Sound Health, the Alzheimer’s Association reports sleep disturbances are common among people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, including changes in sleep schedule, restlessness and wandering throughout the night.

For some people, DST may only worsen their sleep disturbance symptoms, said Melissa Tucker, director of family services for the Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Melissa Tucker
Melissa Tucker

Tucker said this connection is worrisome as sleep plays a vital role in cognitive function and memory consolidation.

“We recommend a lot of things to people to help with sleep disturbance,” Tucker said. “I’m always recommending having a structured schedule, a service like adult daycare can be good for this, activities during the day that happen at the same time to just help keep people on that schedule.”

She said the hour change can make it harder for some people to get up in the morning, stay awake during the day and fall asleep at night. Tucker also said the effects of DST can cause caregivers to feel higher levels of stress.

“It is so hard on people to be caring for someone who is awake all night,” Tucker said. “If that person is still working, or has things to do during the day and they’re not able to sleep because their parent or their spouse is awake at night, then the care-partner is probably at risk.”

She suggested gradually changing the clocks 10 minutes at a time may help reduce the effects of Daylight Saving Time, emphasizing that not all people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia will respond to things the same way.

“As with so many things with dementia, each person is different,” Tucker said. “People are going to respond in a very individual fashion, so if I were speaking to a family, I’d want to know specifically what kinds of concerns they’re seeing, the challenges they’re facing. I think it’s really going to be different for every person.”

If you are concerned about a loved one who may be experiencing memory loss, the Alzheimer’s Association has counselors available on its 24-hour helpline at (800) 272-3900.

Megan Spoerlein was a reporting intern at WGLT.