If you have an elderly family member in your life, you may be familiar with the concept of sundowning. Generally described as increased agitation later on in the day, this syndrome can make senior care considerably more difficult. The guide below will help you better understand this complex condition and how you can help your loved one cope.

What Is Sundowning?

Sundown syndrome is a medical condition that currently has no exact clinical definition, nor is it considered a disease. Sundowning is generally characterized as intensified agitation as night approaches. Common symptoms include anxiety, confusion, aggression, panic, pacing or wandering, yelling, and increased resistance to care.

Your loved one may exhibit one or more of these behaviors. They typically begin towards the end of the day and escalate throughout the night, although they may occur to a lesser extent during the day.

Why Does It Happen?

There are a few potential causes of sundown syndrome. It can affect anyone, although seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia seem to be more vulnerable.

The prevalence of patients with dementia sundowning is difficult to gauge. Studies have estimated that anywhere from 2.4 to 66% of dementia patients will experience sundowning. Risk increases with age and in those with cognitive impairments.

Lack of sleep and damage to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the region of the brain responsible for controlling circadian rhythms, is also a suspected factor. Loud noises, medications and medical conditions, and inadequate exposure to natural light during the day could all trigger sundowning.

How Can It Be Managed?

senior careCompassionate senior care is critical in reducing the risk of sundown syndrome. The main goal is to pinpoint what triggers this condition and try to avoid those factors.

Because many symptoms seem to be linked to a disrupted circadian rhythm, it is important to regulate your loved one’s schedule. Make sure they’re getting plenty of natural light during the day, and supplement what they lose during the fall and winter with sun lamps.

Avoid activities before bedtime that can delay sleep, such as watching television, eating sugary foods, and drinking caffeinated beverages. Reduce noise levels at night and try to eliminate naps during the day. Some medications, like melatonin and anti-anxiety pills, promote sleep and might help manage sundown syndrome.

Comfort and familiarity can alleviate fears and help your loved one cope with negative feelings that contribute to sundowning. Caregivers can begin behavior modification programs, which serve to reassure and distract patients, particularly those in need of memory care.


Does your elderly loved one seem to be suffering from sundown syndrome? The kind and experienced caregivers at Home Helpers of Hoover offer in-home care personalized to meet your family member’s unique needs. Based in Birmingham, AL, this local senior care company offers affordable 24/7 services focused on improving your loved one’s quality of life. To schedule a free consultation, call (205) 978-3809 today. Read more about their dementia and Alzheimer’s care services online.