What Is Sundowning?

What Is Sundowning?

Thursday, November 9th, 2023

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At Pine Grove, we believe that education and research are integral to effective treatment. Our blog content includes messages from our staff members, discussion of new studies, and advice for those in every stage of recovery.

What Is Sundowning?

Thursday, November 9th, 2023

What Is Sundowning?


November is a time to increase awareness around the challenges faced by those living with Alzheimer’s disease, including the lesser-known condition called sundowning. This blog post illuminates this phenomenon, offering insights into its causes, management strategies and prevention tips.

What Causes Sundowning?

Sundowning refers to a range of symptoms that worsen in the late afternoon and evening for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Restlessness, confusion and agitation are classic characteristics affecting patients and their caregivers.

While the exact cause of sundowning remains a mystery, prevailing theories suggest the brain changes associated with dementia can disrupt the circadian rhythm. Researchers believe this disturbance in the sleep-wake cycle triggers sundowning symptoms. Other potential contributors include:

  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Unmet needs, such as hunger or thirst
  • Emotional distress, like depression or anxiety
  • Physical discomfort
  • Lack of stimulation or boredom

Managing Sundowning Symptoms

Caring for someone experiencing sundowning can be challenging, but there are effective ways to manage the symptoms.

  • Stay calm: Patiently respond to concerns and reassure your loved one to help them move past moments of anxiety or anger.
  • Create a peaceful environment: Reduce noise and clutter to minimize stress and agitation.
  • Use distraction techniques: Offer snacks, involve them in simple tasks or put on a favorite TV show to redirect their focus.
  • Promote evening tranquility: Establish a relaxing evening routine with soothing music, herbal tea or gentle walks.

Tips to Prevent Sundowning

While sundowning is not entirely preventable, you can take steps to reduce its frequency and severity.

  • Maximize daylight exposure: Enhance natural light during the day to help adjust the body clock. On warm, sunny days, open the windows to let more sunlight and fresh air in.
  • Encourage regular exercise: Daily physical activity promotes better sleep and mood.
  • Balance rest and activity: Short, early daytime naps can be beneficial, but they should not interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Ensure adequate nighttime sleep: Aim to have your loved one get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to minimize fatigue-related restlessness.
  • Steer clear of overstimulation: Too much excitement can be exhausting or confusing for an Alzheimer’s patient. You should also limit your loved one’s caffeine and alcohol consumption, especially later in the day.

Understanding the Twilight Challenge in Alzheimer’s

If sundowning remains a persistent issue despite your attempts to remedy it, consult with a health provider to explore underlying causes such as pain, sleep disorders or medication side effects.

At Pine Grove, we recognize the complexities that come with getting older, and we offer tailored treatment for 55+ adults. By understanding what sundowning is, how to manage its symptoms and ways to prevent it, we can make the twilight hours less challenging for those affected. This Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, let’s commit to better supporting our loved ones as they navigate the nuances of cognitive decline. Contact us today to get qualified help for an older adult who is close to your heart.