Sundown Syndrome

If your loved one becomes increasingly agitated and confused when the sun goes down, PeachTree Place Assisted Living in the Ogden and West Haven areas of Utah offers support in helping you recognize and cope with this baffling behavior which not only affects their sleep but also yours. While we usually think of sunset as a time to relax and wind down from a busy day before going to bed, seniors with Sundowner Syndrome may instead experience a pronounced increase in the following symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation

As late afternoon grows into early evening, your loved one may not know where they are, what month or year it is, or even who they are. They may be unable to distinguish dreams from reality when they are sleeping.


General confusion which becomes much worse later in the day and through the night is a hallmark of Sundown Syndrome and may be partly caused by hunger, a drop in blood glucose in diabetics, or a drop in blood pressure. Vision problems such as macular degeneration may also cause your loved one to misinterpret what they see and become confused and afraid when the light grows dimmer.


While your loved one may be only mildly restless during the day, Sundowner’s Syndrome can cause a marked increase in behaviors such as pacing, rocking, and even wandering. Wandering is particularly concerning and frightening since they can suddenly disappear in the night and not know why or where they are going or how to get back home.


Your loved one may uncharacteristically exhibit signs of aggression ranging from outbursts, stubbornness and rapid mood changes to anger, striking out, paranoia, and even violence. They may awaken you in the night, yelling at you, using abusive language, or accusing you of stealing their money and other offenses.


As the light fades at the end of the day, you may notice that your loved one seems to grow more and more anxious, even to the point of panic. They may also follow you from room to room and interrupt your conversations.

Sundowning & Sleep Disturbances

While researchers have posed many reasons for the sundowning phenomenon, it is clear that the symptoms have some connection to the onset of darkness and may be caused by an interruption in the brain’s chemistry and sleep/wake cycle. While some believe that the inability to sleep typical with the elderly or those with dementia may bring on the symptoms, others hold that the symptoms themselves cause the sleep disturbances, forming a vicious circle.

Assistance For Your Loved Ones

While sundowning can also affect your loved one if they have recently been hospitalized for surgery, it is most associated with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, occurring in approximately 20% of those affected. At PeachTree Place Assisted Living in Ogden, Utah and the surrounding areas we are well-acquainted with Sundowner Syndrome and have expertise with dealing with them with kindness and caring. Call us today with your questions and concerns.

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