What is Sundowning?

When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, unexpected challenges can present themselves. Have you noticed your loved one displaying worsening symptoms and behaviors in the evening and night hours? 

There is a name for this - sundowning. This behavior is more common than you may realize, affecting roughly 66% of individuals with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

As a memory care provider in Cobb County, Georgia, Provident Village at Creekside understands the challenges and concerns associated with sundowning. To help you better understand the condition, we want to share information regarding sundowning, as well as ways you can try to alleviate these symptoms for your loved one.

Understanding Sundowning

According to the Mayo Clinic, “sundowning isn’t a disease, but a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of day that may affect people with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.” The term refers to a state of confusion that affects individuals in the late afternoon and throughout the night. 

While the exact cause of sundowning is still unknown, researchers believe that it is related to an individual’s circadian rhythm (or “internal clock”). Your circadian rhythm tells your body when it is time to wake up and start the day and when it is time to wind down and go to sleep. While changes in the circadian rhythm are a normal part of aging, this internal clock can become damaged due to brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.  

It is believed that dementia changes an individual’s circadian rhythm causing confusion about the time of day, resulting in symptoms of sundowning.

Sundowning Behaviors

Just like dementia symptoms, sundowning can affect people differently. While there are common symptoms associated with it, this does not mean that your loved one will experience all or any of them. 

Common symptoms of sundowning include:

  • Rapid mood changes
  • Increased anxiety or fear
  • Enhanced agitation or anger
  • Restlessness, pacing, or wandering
  • Increased confusion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hallucinations

What Triggers Sundowning Symptoms?

We all have triggers. Small changes or nuances that cause agitation or anxiety. The most common and obvious trigger of sundowning is the sun setting for the evening. 

However, other circumstances or factors that can trigger sundowning symptoms may include:

  • A change in an individual’s routine
  • A lack of consistent sleep
  • Too little or too much light
  • Shadows 
  • Medication side effects
  • Excessive or unexpected noise

How Can I Help Alleviate These Behaviors?

Maintain a Consistent Routine

This is particularly helpful with nighttime routines. Even though your loved one may be more confused after the sun sets, following an established routine can help to minimize agitation.

Light Up the Room

After the sun sets, use light fixtures to illuminate their space. Keeping the home well-lit will help your loved one navigate and can reduce the number of shadows (a common trigger for sundowning symptoms).

Minimize Excessive Noise

Promote a calming environment, especially in the evening hours. Minimizing loud noises can help reduce stress and anxiety and create a relaxing environment for your family member to unwind for the night.

Discover Memory Care in Cobb County, Georgia

Provident Village at Creekside in Smyrna, Georgia, we care for residents with dignity and respect, encouraging and focusing our programs around strengths and abilities, not limitations. We offer multiple levels of memory care designed to empower individuals to live life to the fullest and promote joy, connection, and comfort.

  • Illuminations is life-enriching memory support for those living with early-onset memory loss. 
  • Our Memory Care Neighborhood is a safe, secure neighborhood for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and fosters an environment of joy, independence, and wellness.

Our memory care features and amenities include a person-centered and life-skills approach to care, private rooms, wellness programming, individualized care, and service plans, state-of-the-art emergency call systems, educational opportunities, daily social activities, and more.

While sundowning is relatively common among individuals with dementia, it can raise concerns for families and caregivers. Fortunately, our memory care services in Cobb County, Georgia, can help. 

To learn more about our levels of memory care, contact Provident Village at Creekside or visit our website.


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