Sundowning symptoms include wandering, pacing, aggression and ignoring directions, according to Mayo Clinic. Some dementia patients with sundowning also experience anxiety and confusion. Researchers are not sure the exact cause of sundowning.
Sundowning is a set of symptoms that affect dementia patients late in the day, Mayo Clinic explains. Some factors that may aggravate sundowning include difficulty distinguishing dreams from reality, low lighting, shadows and fatigue. In some patients, the internal body clock may not be functioning correctly.
Research has found that sun exposure during the day may help patients who experience sundowning, Mayo Clinic reports. In some cases a low dose of melatonin may help. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body fall asleep. A combination of sunlight and melatonin may also help.
Tips for decreasing sundowning symptoms include keeping dementia patients on a schedule that only includes limited nap during the day, Mayo Clinic advises. Scheduling activities early in the day is also helpful. Limiting caffeine and sugar to the morning may also help.
Caretakers can help alleviate sundowning agitation by limiting exposure to television and other stimulating activities, Mayo Clinic says. Soft music or nature sounds may calm the patient. A night light in the patient's bedroom can also reduce agitation.