What is sundowning syndrome?

People with dementia may experience sundowning syndrome. This refers to a state of confusion or increased agitation occurring in the late afternoon or near the end of the day. Sundowning syndrome can also lead to wandering, pacing, aggression or anxiety. 

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, the dementia care in Chadwell Heath, Romford we provide can help manage symptoms of this progressive disorder including sundowning syndrome. Read on to learn more. 

Understanding sundowning syndrome

Sundowning syndrome is a phenomenon that causes people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia to behave in a way that is difficult to understand. It’s referred to as sundowning syndrome because these symptoms usually appear in the late afternoon or evening.

Common changes associated with sundowning syndrome include irritability, confusion, disorientation, aggression and restlessness. Somebody who is sundowning may also be more suspicious. These changes can cause them to act differently by yelling, experiencing mood swings, pacing or experiencing hallucinations. Unfortunately these symptoms can further complicate matters by making it difficult for the person to fall asleep. 

What causes sundowning syndrome?

Doctors and dementia experts are actually not exactly sure why sundowning syndrome occurs. One common reasoning is that the brain changes connected with dementia can disrupt a person’s internal clock. Confusion in the sleep-wake cycle can perhaps account for some of the restlessness and agitation. Other factors that can contribute to confusion late in the day include:

  • unmet physical needs such as hunger or thirst
  • low lighting
  • depression
  • being bored or in pain 
  • increased shadows
  • being tired
  • overstimulation during the day
  • side effects of prescribed medications.

Reducing sundowning syndrome 

It’s possible to support a person with sundowning syndrome and help them manage or prevent symptoms altogether. This is particularly true if you can identify a person’s specific triggers early on and then avoid or limit them going forward. Some ways you can help someone who is sundowning are to:

  • invite calmness into the evening by playing soothing music or reading a book to wind down
  • create a comfortable and safe sleeping area
  • limit day-time napping
  • keep a predictable routine for bedtime, waking and meals
  • encourage natural light during the day and adjust to softer lighting in the evening
  • reduce clutter, noise and number of people in a room.

Supporting people with dementia

We are long-term members of the Dementia Friends and the Alzheimer’s Society. We’re proud to offer trusted dementia care that’s up to date with the latest information and medical advances. Our staff have been fully trained as a dementia care specialist and have a strong understanding of how to manage both the mental, emotional and physical challenges associated with dementia. We offer specialist activities to nurture and support those living with dementia, including access to a sensory room and reminiscence and recall sessions. You can rest assured that our sensitive and caring staff is always on hand to offer the support your loved one needs to manage the challenges of this condition. 

Get in touch 
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia and could benefit from our trusted dementia care to help you manage sundowning syndrome and more, please feel free to get in touch or call us on either 0800 999 8499 or 0208 597 4175. We would be happy to answer any of your questions or provide more information on how we can help.