Alzheimer’s Disease 101: Understanding Sundowning Symptoms

an elderly man comforted by his son as the night startsMost individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease become increasingly aggravated when the sun is going down, hence the term “sundowning”. However, experts now believe that the setting sun isn’t responsible for this behavior because the symptoms could occur at any time in Alzheimer’s patients regardless of the time of day.

When patients are sundowning, they wander and pace around, and become more agitated, as it gets dark. They also exhibit demanding behavior, paranoia, and confusion. They’ll eventually scream at other people or lash out because they can’t understand what’s happening to them.

What Causes Sundowning?

The symptoms a person exhibits while sundowning could be due to many different reasons, with the most common ones being the following:

  • An unbalanced biological clock – Patients who have hormonal imbalances or respond to things that could upset their biological could result in sundowning symptoms. For example, lack of adequate sun exposure or crucial hormones because of old age.
  • Changing routines – If patients who are used to daily routines suddenly experience a lull in their daily schedule, they could easily grow restless and confused.
  • Feeling overstimulated and tired – The brain is usually at its most vulnerable following eight hours of activity and just being awake so you get easily tired and cannot manage stimulation as well as you can, explains Revere Health, a renowned adult care center in Lehi. They add that this is especially true in older individuals.
  • Underlying depression symptoms – Depression is common among Alzheimer’s patients so their risk of being agitated is increased.

Other Vital Things to Remember

Take note that some experts believe that a patient’s caregiver could likewise be inadvertently contributing to the patient’s sundowning symptoms. If a caregiver cares for your loved one or if your loved one is staying at a facility, make sure that the caregiver or facility staff is skilled enough or qualified to care for your loved one the best way possible.

The most effective way to keep your loved one’s sundowning symptoms in check is to be proactive and make sure that his or her days are planned out, with simple and calming activities. If your loved one is having issues with sleeping at night, make sure to consult your doctor so that he or she could check your loved one for other conditions that could be aggravating the sundowning issues and recommend appropriate treatment.