What Is “Sundowning?”
People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may exhibit symptoms that are referred to as “sundowning” or “sundown syndrome.” These behaviors can be frustrating for loved ones and caregivers, but understanding what is happening and learning tips for dealing with sundowning can help everyone cope.
Sundowning is most commonly seen in mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s patients. They may experience sleep disturbances, and as many as twenty percent will start to feel confused, irritated, or restless late in the day. The exact cause of sundowning isn’t completely understood, but is likely triggered by changes in the brain caused by the disease.
To help manage sundowning symptoms, consider the following tips:
- Keep your loved one active during the day. Stimulating mental and physical activities that give him or her a sense of purpose keep the brain active and engaged.
- Stick to a predictable schedule and don’t try to do too much. Exhaustion can exacerbate sundowning symptoms.
- Minimize shadows. Lighting that causes confusing shadows can be frightening and irritating to someone experiencing sundowning symtpoms.
- Use lighting for ambiance and consider light therapy. Well-lit rooms and exposure to natural light can boost mood. In the evening, keep your loved one in a well-lit room until it is time to go to sleep.
- Regulate sleep. Long naps during the day can disrupt the body’s natural rhythms and contribute to nighttime restlessness. Limit daytime naps to twenty minutes or less.
- Talk to a doctor. Tell your loved one’s doctor what is happening. There may be additional therapies or even medications that can help.