While most people are “winding down” or relaxing as the day comes to an end, those with sundowners syndrome are becoming increasingly active. Late afternoon and early evening can be difficult for some people with Alzheimer’s disease. Sundown syndrome, or “sundowning” as it’s often called, can produce a range of behaviors, including confusion, anxiety, and aggression. This can be distressing for both the individual as well as the family or caregivers. While there is no cure for sundowners, there are ways to lessen its effects.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, sundowning may continue for several months and often happens in the middle and later stages of dementia. Here are some of the triggers that may cause sundowning:
- Disturbance to the “body clock” that tells our bodies when to sleep
- Too much or too little light
- Too little or disturbed sleep
- Lots of noise
- Medications wearing off
The National Institute on Aging suggests a few tips to help prevent sundowning:
- Try to distract the person with a favorite snack, object or activity
- Play soothing music
- Close curtains or blinds at dusk to minimize shadows
- Avoid caffeine late in the day
Don’t plan too many activities during the day, as they can be tiring
If sundowning continues to be a problem, seek medical advice. While sundowning may simply be occurring alongside dementia, there may be other causes such as pain, sleep disorders, or other illnesses.