What is sundowning syndrome?

Have you heard of sundowning? This syndrome affects people with dementia, causing them to behave differently in the later afternoon or towards the end of the day. For example, they may become more agitated or distressed. Perhaps they will experience hallucinations or delusions. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing the effects of sundowning syndrome, home care in Romford or Clacton on Sea and the surrounding areas can help. Read on to learn more. 

Understanding sundowning syndrome

Sometimes, a person with dementia may demonstrate behaviour that is difficult to understand, known as sundowning. It’s referred to as ‘sundowning’ because late afternoon or evening can be particularly difficult for people living with dementia. However, it’s important to note that it is not necessarily linked to the time of day when the sun sets. They may exhibit behaviours such as restlessness, agitation, irritability and confusion – all of which can last well into the night, making it hard for them to fall asleep. 

Possible causes of sundowning syndrome

The causes of sundowning syndrome are not well understood. One explanation is that the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease affect a person’s biological clock. This can confuse the sleep-wake cycle. Other potential reasons for sundowning syndrome could be:

  • unmet needs such as tiredness, hunger or pain
  • side effects of prescribed medications
  • overstimulation during the day
  • boredom
  • pain
  • mood disorders such as anxiety or depression
  • not enough exposure to sunlight.

Coping with sundowning syndrome

Coping with sundowning syndrome can be difficult for the person diagnosed with dementia, as well as for their family caregivers. For example, if your loved one is up all night tossing and turning, your sleep pattern will be affected too. This can make it difficult for you to function well during the day. 

Some tips to help calm agitation and reduce behavioural changes such as wandering, pacing or yelling include:

  • reducing the number of people in the room, clutter and noise
  • engaging them in quiet activities such as playing soothing music or reading a book 
  • ensuring they get as much natural light as possible during the day – and that indoor lighting is adjusted to softer settings in the evening 
  • reassuring your loved one that everything is okay
  • offering distraction with a favourite snack, activity or object.

How can home care help?

We provide practical and personalised home care in the comfort of a person’s home to help them live as well as possible, despite any changing needs. Our homecare services are flexible, meaning that they can be whatever you need them to be. You can expect your committed carer to help with a variety of tasks including household chores like cooking and cleaning, help with medication, support with personal care like toileting and dressing and providing consistent companionship. With sensitivity and respect, we are here to look after your loved one and ensure that their needs are well looked after to help prevent or reduce sundowning syndrome. 

Get in touch 
If you or a loved one has dementia and is experiencing the effects of sundowning syndrome, our compassionate carers are here for you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or give us a call on 0800 999 3447. We are here to answer any of your questions and provide more information on how our home care services can help.