If you’re caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, you may have noticed big changes in how they act in the late afternoon or early evening. Doctors call it sundowning, or sundown syndrome.
It seems to be triggered by fading light, and the symptoms can get worse as the night goes on.
You forget things. It’s not just the occasional name or date, or misplaced keys, but people and events that have been part of the fabric of your life. Sometimes the way home from work doesn't seem familiar. You go in the kitchen to make dinner and can't follow the recipe. You've gotten some notices on your electric or water bill, after years without a late payment.
But you're in your late 40s, so it couldn't be Alzheimer's disease, could it?
It might. These things can sometimes happen to anyone,...
You can do things to help both of you sleep better and be less tired during the day, though.
Sundowning can make caring for someone extra-challenging. They may be:
They also may
Hear or see things
Have mood swings
Up to 1 out of 5 people with Alzheimer’s get sundown syndrome. But it can also happen to older people without dementia.
It usually starts during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Sundowning symptoms fade as the disease gets worse.
What Causes It?
We don’t know for sure why sundowning happens.
Some scientists think that changes in the brain of someone with dementia might mess up their internal body clock. The area of the brain that signals when you’re awake or asleep breaks down in people with Alzheimer’s. That might cause sundowning.