Sundown Syndrome


Sundown syndrome also referred as sundowning is when a person who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia, is in a state of confusion.
Sundowning starts to happen around sunset that describes the commencement of confusion and anxiety that commonly disturbs people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This confusion and anxiety can occur anytime, but it is more noticeable during late evening. The sundown syndrome is also thought of as mood disorder or a sleep disorder. People who are suffering from sundown syndrome can behave abnormally as the sun goes down. They would start asking questions over and over again. They can interrupt when there is a conversation going on. The research also shows that they may lose their ability of speaking their own language and some thoughts can be very difficult for them to respond.

Some of the sundowner’s syndrome behaviors and emotional include:
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • crying
  • restless
  • violence
  • wander around places
  • yelling
  • become combative

How to handle a person who is suffering from sundown syndrome is to approach them in a calm manner, so it cause any tension. Don't yell or raise your voice or touch them that will cause more frustration. Provide a peaceful setting, such as opening the curtain so they can see the changes in the sky from light to dark. Ensure safety, especially adding locks in certain areas.

Causes of Sundown Syndrome:

The researchers and the doctors have not found the exact answer for the causes of sundown syndrome. Some research studies shows that it is caused by drug interactions or sometimes, stress that is connected with lower cognitive function. Some research indicates that sundowning can be caused because of the changes to the brain’s circadian pacemaker, is where the lack of sleep is causing symptoms of sundown syndrome. In your brain the nerve cells is what keeps the body in the 24 hour clock cycle and alerts the body when to rest. While other research has shown that it can be caused by the chemical changes in the brain that's similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of a person who is suffering from Sundowning usually are:
  • Forgetful
  • Confused
  • Delirious
  • Restless
  • Anxious

In this video below, you'll see a patient who suffers from Alzheimer's Sundown Syndrome during the night.


Treatments for sundown syndrome:
  • A patient with sundown syndrome needs to be active during the day
  • Avoid daytime naps, so they'll be able to sleep at night.
    • Schedule times for them to sleep, avoiding over sleeping.
  • The patients are encouraged to exercise daily. When exercising during the day, it encourages them to be more tired in the evening
    • Walking for 10 to 20 minutes
    • Stretching, to help more blood flowing to the brain
  • The caretaker of the patient should focus on the healthy diet and allow caffeine and sugar in the morning hours only and dinner should be served early.
    • Healthy Diets should include
      • vegetables, whole grain, fruits and low-fat dairy items
      • Limit foods that has high saturated fat and cholesterol, such butter, oils, and fatty meats
      • Also you should cut down salt and sugar in their diet. and use seasoning and herbs as an alternative to salt and sugar.
  • The exposure to bright lights like the sun can be a great light therapy for the patients to reduce some sundowning symptoms.
  • Allow the patient to change bedrooms and let him or her to sleep wherever they are comfortable.
  • The nightlight should be used to have some light to avoid the anxiety that can be caused from the dark.
  • Never start an argument with them or ask explanations for any statements that don’t make any sense. It will make them feel uncomfortable, and cause them to have stress, due to consistently asking questions.
  • The most important factor for the patient with sundown syndrome is to handle the in a calm manner.
  • Medication prescribe by a doctor.

Web Resources:

MSN Healthy Living

Aging Care

Related Terminology:


sundown syndrome.jpg
Patient starting to feel anxiety as the sun goes down

keep calm.jpg
Recommended for Sundown Syndrome patients