The symptoms of sundowning in Alzheimer's patients often include restlessness, confusion, agitation, irritability or extreme mood swings, according to WebMD. People who are sundowning may also become suspicious, demanding and disoriented, which can prompt them to pace, yell, and hear or see things.
Sundowning typically occurs in the early evening or late afternoon in patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, explains WebMD. The fading light triggers the symptoms, and some patients experience more extreme symptoms during the evening. Additional factors may also trigger sundowning, including depression, hunger, thirst or pain. Individuals who have trouble sleeping or those who become bored may be more at risk for sundowning while suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
Patients and caregivers can help reduce triggers for sundowning by keeping a daily routine that includes consistent times for sleep, meals and waking up, suggests WebMD. Appointments, visits, baths and outings should be scheduled early in the day when patients are at less risk for sundowning. Stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine should be avoided, and caffeine and sweets should be limited to morning hours.
Patients at risk for sundowning should avoid naps, keep evening meals simple and smaller and avoid exercise at least four hours before bedtime, according to WebMD. It may also help to turn on lights and close the blinds during the evening hours. Individuals with extreme symptoms should consult with a medical professional for additional treatment and prevention options.