Common sundowning behavior symptoms include pacing, yelling, hearing or seeing things, and experiencing mood swings, according to WebMD. Additional symptoms include restlessness, irritability, confusion and agitation. Individuals experiencing sundowning may become suspicious, demanding or disoriented, and symptoms often worsen later in the evening.
Sundowning affects individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, WebMD explains. Symptoms typically begin in the late afternoon or early evening as light begins to fade.
Approximately 20 percent of Alzheimer's patients experience sundowning, WebMD reports. The symptoms often begin in the middle stages of the disease and fade as the disease progresses.
Researchers theorize that sundowning may be caused by a malfunctioning internal body clock, WebMD maintains. The part of the brain that signals when a person is awake or asleep breaks down in Alzheimer's patients. Certain triggers can cause sundowning, such as pain, depression and boredom. Sometimes being too tired, hungry or thirsty can also cause symptoms.
Caretakers can do a variety of things to help control sundowning, WebMD says. Promoting good sleep by not allowing the patient to nap and not drink alcohol, eat sugar or exercise close to bedtime may help. Eliminating shadows by lowering window shades and turning on lights can help with agitation.