Sundown Syndrome is when people with dementia may become more confused, restless or insecure late in the afternoon or early evening. It can be worse after a move or a change in their routine.
They may become more demanding, restless, upset, suspicious, disoriented and even see, hear or believe things that aren’t real, especially at night.
Attention span and concentration can become even more limited. Some people may become more impulsive, responding to their own ideas of reality that may place them at risk.
What causes sundowning?
No one is sure what causes sundowning, although it seems to result from changes that are occurring in the brain. People with dementia tire more easily and can become more restless and difficult to manage when tired.
Sundowning may relate to lack of sensory stimulation after dark. At night, there are fewer cues in the environment, with the dim lights and absence of noises from routine daytime activity.
A person experiencing sundowning, may be hungry, uncomfortable, in pain or needing to use the toilet, all of which they can only express through restlessness. As the dementia progresses and they understand less about what is happening around them, they may become more frantic in trying to restore their sense of familiarity or security. Many families and carers say that the person becomes more anxious about ‘going home’ or ‘finding mother’ late in the day which may indicate a need for security and protection. They may be trying to find an environment that is familiar to them, particularly a place that was familiar to them at an earlier time in their life.