Sundown syndrome (sometimes referred to as sundowning) is common among those with Alzheimer’s, so if your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or they have not been diagnosed, but you think they might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s), sundown syndrome is something for which you should be on the lookout. Whether you have heard a little bit about sundown syndrome, or you are completely new to the concept, here are some things to look out for if you suspect your loved one might be suffering from sundown syndrome.
Patients with Alzheimer’s often get agitated for a variety of reasons, but if they have sundown syndrome, they might be more likely to get agitated around sunset and/or throughout the night. Agitation can manifest in the form of your loved one getting upset over little things, or for no discernible reason at all. If it happens around sunset or in the course of the night and appears to get better around morning, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
Agitation can also appear in the form of anxiety, which is another common symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia. If you notice your loved one is more likely to become anxious around sunset or over the course of the night, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
If your loved one is experiencing sundown syndrome, they might seem more fidgety at night than during the day, whether that means they are just tapping their fingers on a surface, or trying to perform tasks that do not need to be performed, such as packing when they are not going anywhere, cleaning things that are already clean, or cooking a big meal after they have already had dinner. As with agitation, if you notice your loved one appears to be more restless at night than during the day, it could be a symptom of sundown syndrome.
As people with Alzheimer’s or dementia lose their memories, it is no wonder they are more likely to become confused, especially as the disease progresses and they lose much of their cognitive function in addition to their memories. While those with Alzheimer’s or dementia tend to have good days and bad days, it is also common for some to have good days and bad nights, especially if they are suffering from sundown syndrome. Keep in mind that confusion can often lead to agitation and restlessness as they struggle to remember where they are and how they got there.
Suspicion and paranoia are common symptoms of dementia that may or may not get worse after the sun has gone down. If your loved one is their normal, chatty, sociable self during the day, but suddenly suspicious and paranoid by night, they may be suffering from sundown syndrome.
Because sundown syndrome can often last all night, not only does it prevent the patient from getting sleep, it can prevent the caregiver and/or other people in the house from getting a good night’s rest, in which case it might be time to consider assisted living. If you have questions about assisted living, we are here to answer them.