What Is Sundowners Syndrome?

Issue 41.13

Sundowners syndrome, also known as sundowning, is a type of mood or sleep disorder often associated with the early stages of dementia & Alzheimer’s. Loved ones experience periods of extreme agitation and confusion during the late afternoon or early evening hours, often leading to irritability towards caregivers.


The exact cause of sundowners syndrome remains a mystery. While the episodes are most commonly found in dementia patients, the symptoms can also appear in those suffering from other conditions, such as degenerating eye conditions. Some medical experts believe the condition may occur because of changes in lighting conditions or sleep disturbances; that the episodes tend to come on around sundown may suggest a link with the body’s natural day and night cycles. Some research also raises the possibility of more organic causes such as drug interactions or stress associated with diminishing cognitive functions.


The symptoms of this condition may vary from person to person. Some people may become extremely restless and refuse to sit of lie down. Disorientation, language problems and even hallucinating occurs in some people. Sundowning loved ones may experience increase fear or anxiety, feel jumpy or unreasonably afraid. In some cases, anger and panic causes loved ones to verbally or even physically abuse caregivers or visitors.

Coping tools

  1. Many doctors believe depression in the elderly can contribute to sundowners syndrome. Antidepressants medications may help. See your physician for complete physical and review of medical history to rule out other medical conditions that may be contributing to symptoms.
  2. Develop good sleep habits. Fatigue and sleep disorders are associated with sundowners syndrome. Getting a good night’s rest may help. Limit caffeinated beverages and alcohol which may disrupt sleep. Try to go to bed and wake at the same time every day.
  3. Reduce agitation. Consider music therapy which has been shown to help individuals with sundowners syndrome feel calmer. Aromatherapy may also help.
  4. Consider light therapy. For some individuals sitting by a light box for a period may reduce symptoms. Speak with your doctor to determine if this may be an appropriate treatment option.
  5. Plan activities during the day when confusion is less. Since Symptoms are worse in the evening, use daylight hours to do chores and visit with friends. Engage in quiet activities in the evening.
  6. Contact our local Alzheimer’s & Dementia Society @ 435.319.0407 or email for more helpful resources and information.

Join the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Society monthly support group at Spring Gardens Senior Living, the 2nd Wednesday of every month from 1-3 pm. Contact Tiphanie Scott with Spring Gardens at 435.688.1622 for more information.

Information referenced from,

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