Symptoms of sundowning in Alzheimer's patients include pacing, wandering, anxiety, aggressive behavior and ignoring directions, states Mayo Clinic. Sundowning is not a separate disease but is an aggregation of symptoms that happen late in the day or at night. Sundowning also can affect people with other types of dementia.
As of 2015, the precise cause of sundowning remains unknown. However, some triggering factors may include the deepening of shadows, low light, fatigue, difficulty differentiating between dreams and reality and a change to routine that confuses the body's biorhythms, according to Mayo Clinic.
Several tips can help minimize the incidence of sundowning in Alzheimer's patients, suggested Mayo Clinic. Limiting sugar and caffeine to the morning and restricting sleeping to nighttime as much as possible helps to stabilize the body's clock. Leaving a night light on at all times to make surroundings more familiar can reduce agitation. Reducing such activities as Internet use or television viewing, which can stimulate the mind, in the evening can help. Bringing pictures and other familiar items into a new setting relaxes the Alzheimer's patient. Keeping the patient busy during the day encourages greater sleepiness at night, limiting sundowning. If sleep apnea, urinary tract infections or other causes make sundowning worse, the caregiver should consult the patient's physician.