What is Sundowning?

Sundowing is when individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia have trouble sleeping or have behavioral problems that increase beginning at dusk and continuing into the night. Studies show that at many as 20 percent of those with Alzheimer’s have more pronounced symptoms in the evening. Mental and physical exhaustion at the end of the day can lead to sundowing, but other factors can contribute. For instance, they may become disoriented and agitated at night if they have difficulty separating dreams from reality.


What to try:
  • Plan outings for the morning.
  • Maintain a schedule as much as possible.
  • Keep dinner simple and serve the larger meal at lunch.
  • Avoid stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine or sugar.
  • Keep them active and awake during the day; try to limit daytime napping.
  • Minimize their stress in the evening by encouraging them to choose activities that aren’t overly challenging instead of those which could lead to frustration.
  • Identify triggers and limit those environmental distractions. Look for patterns of what makes their symptoms worse by keeping track of their daily activities, environments and behaviors in a notebook or in an app on your smartphone.
  • Keep rooms well lit in the evenings as they can be disoriented in dimly lit rooms or frightened and confused by shadows.
  • At night make sure that their room is a comfortable temperature. Being surrounded by familiar objects, such as family photos or a favorite blanket can also help put them at ease.