What do you call it when a person with dementia, who has been relatively calm and lucid all day, quickly becomes restless, agitated, and disoriented? It is called sundowning. I have witnessed this in patients in my early career as a nurse, then in my husband’s grandmother. Sometimes the agitation gets so bad, medicine is given as a sedative to aid with sleep.
It is a common, shared experience of a new parent, especially mothers, to feel antsy as the sun goes down. There is something about the dread of the sleepless night ahead that sets off the stirrings of anxiety.
Whether or not you realize it, your body is looking forward to sleep all day.
There is a very good chance that you will not get a restful night’s sleep tonight. As I write this, I can literally feel the sinking dread in my stomach merely remembering this feeling first as a nurse looking down the barrel of a night shift, then for many years as a parent of a young child.
And it isn’t just the not-sleeping. It’s the impending witching hours. You know, those multiple hours during which the baby demands all five Ss to settle down?! At the same time?!
Okay, so the sun sets every day around the same time. Let’s try something new. Instead of letting the antsiness creep in without us realizing it, let’s light it up inside in an effort to shine a light in the darkness.
What was hard about today? Now let it go and snuggle in for the night.
As the daylight begins to fade, say thank you to the day and invite the light into your home for the evening. Ask yourself, “What was good today?”
Welcome the evening: As the sun is setting, start turning on lights. You might want to close the drapes now, or if you have a nice view of the sunset, you might leave them open a bit longer.
Decide which rooms you want to feel snuggly for tonight. Start getting those ready. It’s probably the bedroom and the living room.
Turn on every light in the room, then turn some off. Then try those on and the others off. Pick a lighting that feels good to you. Aim for setting the room on the brighter side for now. We at Balanced Breastfeeding, for no reason other than we personally have them in our home, highly recommend you use 2700K bulbs. Here are the bulbs we use to combat our own sundowning:
Whether or not you have 2700K light bulbs, see if you can add a flickering fire-like element: light a candle or your fireplace or use an electric candle or electric fireplace—less danger of falling asleep with it burning, same effect.
Grab some extra blankets, a warm drink, your My Brest Friend Pillow, and your baby. Have your partner or a friend pop some kettle corn and choose to watch something that makes you laugh.
What you are hopefully left with a little less sundowning and a little more Hyyge.
Darkness is scary. Trust that the light of spring will return. You are safe and warm in your home.