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What Is Sundowner’s and How Can You Prevent It?

What Is Sundowner’s and How Can You Prevent It?

<!–[CDATA[When a senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, one behavior family caregivers often struggle to manage is sundowner’s syndrome. Also referred to as sundowning, this behavior affects nearly 20% of those with Alzheimer’s.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, sundowning occurs when “people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have problems sleeping or increases in behavioral problems that begin at dusk and last into the night.” While an exact cause is unknown, scientists have some ideas about what contributes to sundowner’s syndrome.

Why Do Adults with Alzheimer’s Experience Sundowning?

A few reasons a family elder may experience sundowning include:

  • Having a disrupted sleep-wake cycle that mixes up days and nights.
  • Being overstimulated by a noisy or hectic environment.
  • Experiencing extreme fatigue at the end of the day, often caused by too much activity.
  • Sensing light changing as the sun begins to set. Shadows can be especially frightening or disorienting for adults with Alzheimer’s.
  • Reacting to an exhausted caregiver’s unintentional change in language or nonverbal cues.

While you may not be able to prevent sundowning completely, family caregivers can take steps to minimize it.

Managing Sundowner’s Syndrome

  1. Structure the day carefully: When you are caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s, plan your day carefully to minimize the risk for sundowning. One goal should be to avoid overtiring your loved one late in the day. Schedule appointments and errands for mid-morning or early afternoon.
  2. Limit daytime sleeping: While a senior with Alzheimer’s may benefit from a nap, try to limit how long they sleep. It’s especially important to avoid late-day naps. These strategies might help them sleep better and keep their days and nights from getting mixed up.
  3. Get regular exercise: One of exercising’s many health benefits is relieving the agitation and anxiety common among people with Alzheimer’s. Helping a senior feel more relaxed and comfortable as day turns to night may reduce incidences of sundowning.
  4. Use more lighting: Because sundowner’s syndrome occurs as the sun sets in the late afternoon and evening, it may help to create a brighter environment. Turn on all the lights in rooms the senior spends time in. Then lower the blinds and close the curtains so they can’t see it is actually dark outside. This may help ease the transition from daytime to night.
  5. Create a calm environment: As the afternoon passes, make sure your home environment is as peaceful as possible. Instead of having the television blaring, turn on soft, soothing music. Encourage visitors to stop by earlier in the afternoon to keep the home calm and quiet.

If none of these suggestions help, call the senior’s physician. They may have other options for you to consider.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living

Five Star Senior Living is one of the nation’s leading providers of memory care. We call it the Bridge to Rediscovery. This award-winning program utilizes Montessori-based techniques to allow people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to feel successful and empowered. Call us at (853) 457-8271 to schedule a private tour to learn more!

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