What is Sundowning or Sundowners Syndrome?

What is Sundowning? (Excerpt from HealthLine.com)

Sundowning is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Confusion and agitation worsen in the late afternoon and evening, or as the sun goes down. Symptoms are less pronounced earlier in the day.

Sundowning most often affects people who have mid-stage and advanced dementia. The phenomenon of sundowning is also sometimes called “late-day confusion.” Reducing sundowning behavior can benefit both the person with dementia and the caregiver.

(Source: HealthLine.com)

Sundowning is just one of the names to describe the experiences and behavior of a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as the late evening hours transition to night. Sundowners Syndrome, Sundown Syndrome, or Shadowing are other names used in reference to this symptom.

In the video below titled “What is Sundowning”, Dr. Leatherman and Dr. Goeth share more information about Sundowning. They describe how to identify Sundowners Syndrome, related behavior and ways to reduce anxiety and restlessness in the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Is there a cure for Sundowning or a medication?

There is no known cure for Sundowning. In the video above, Dr. Leatherman and Dr. Goeth explain that there is no pill for Sundowners, but by working closely with a doctor it may be possible to modulate some behaviors with medicine. The doctors go on to mention melatonin, a natural hormone produced in the body, as a way to encourage sleepiness and relaxation in the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What does work to help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia get through the evening hours more easily?

Below are two lists from MayoClinic.org that may prove useful in dealing with Sundowners Syndrome or getting the best results at Sundowning time. The lists mention factors that affect late-day confusion and ways to reduce disorientation.

Factors that may aggravate late-day confusion include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low lighting
  • Increased shadows
  • Disruption of the body’s “internal clock”

Tips for reducing this type of disorientation in your loved one

  • Plan for activities and exposure to light during the day to encourage nighttime sleepiness.
  • Limit caffeine and sugar to morning hours.
  • Serve dinner early and offer a light snack before bedtime.
  • Keep a night light on to reduce agitation that occurs when surroundings are dark or unfamiliar.
  • In a strange or unfamiliar setting such as a hospital, bring familiar items such as photographs or a radio from home.

(Source: MayoClinic.org)

What are some other tips to help Sundowning?

You can also reduce the restlessness those with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience in the late evening by doing the following:

  • Avoid exposing those with Alzheimer’s or dementia to a flurry of activity.
  • Try to slow down the pace of any activities.
  • Play calming music.
  • Dim the lights and show a calming or relaxing movie.
  • Establish a routine and stick to it.

Sundowning is a common result of the mental deterioration process brought on by Alzheimer’s or dementia. Caretakers can alleviate much of the stress felt by a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by putting into practice the suggestions mentioned above. These tips will help make the transition from late evening to night as easy as possible for both caretakers and those with Alzheimers or dementia.

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