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For people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, sundowning syndrome is a common change in how they act later in the afternoon or early evening. Sundowning refers to a state of confusion and can cause various behaviors such as confusion, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, suspicion, aggression, and wandering.
Doctors do not know what triggers sundowning but it is more likely to occur if the person is too tired, hungry, depressed, in pain, bored, or having sleep problems. It can also be related to an upset in a person’s “internal body clock,” confusing night for day. Here are some ways you can help manage the behavioral aspects of sundowning.
Keeping your loved one calm in the evenings:
- Close the curtains and blinds.
- Turn on extra lights.
- Fix the room temperature so they are comfortable.
- Make sure their sleeping area is comfortable and safe.
- Put on relaxing music or go for a walk to wind down at the end of the day.
- Turn off loud, distracting devices, like the TV or phones.
- Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of people in the room.
Helping to manage sleep issues:
- Schedule activities in the morning or early afternoon.
- Encourage a regular routine of waking up and going to bed.
- Identify soothing activities, such as calming music or looking at a photograph.
- Reduce or avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which can impact sleep patterns.
If you are concerned about the patterns of sundowning with your loved one, talk with your doctor and seek medical advice. There may be other causes of sundowning that your doctor can identify, such as pain or a medication side effect.