wings and things

Sundown syndrome

on November 11, 2012

The other day a friend mentioned this so I googled it and am stunned because it explains what has begun to happen to Anthony every evening! Other terms used are ‘sundowning’, ‘sundowner’s syndrome’ and ‘sundowners syndrome’. Here is a link to one ‘take’ on this very real problem.

Sundown syndrome is an offshoot of dementia and usually happens as the sun goes down and light turns to dark, but it can also happen at sunrise. Some theories suggest that it has something to do with the 24 hour ‘brain clock’ that responds to changes in light. Other than this it seems to be a bit of a mystery. A person with dementia may be calm during the day but become agitated in the evening, sometimes quite dramatically.

Symptoms can include things like agitation, restlessness, aggressiveness, increased confusion, hallucinations, paranoia and a whole gamut of ‘out-of-character’ behaviours. This is the best explanation I have found yet to explain the last few weeks of Anthony’s increasing bewilderment and misery in the evenings.

Sunset, for Anthony and many others, is not beautiful.

24 responses to “Sundown syndrome

  1. Is it possible to get one of those lights for his room that people affected by SAD use?

  2. Just read the article and it mentions using a lamp. Might be worth a try.

  3. yellowlancer says:

    I can only hope that knowing about this helps a little for you, Julie, even though it doesn’t give any real solutions, answers or treatment.

  4. I wonder if one of those daylight lamps would help when he is agitated?

  5. Wow what a strange syndrome…Poor Ants. HUGS

  6. we are all so complicated – so much affects us that we do not acknowledge or understand

  7. Gardengirl says:

    I feel bad for not saying anything earlier now. I just assumed that you knew what it was. My grandma who has Alzheimer’s, also has Sundowner’s. It is particularly troublesome if her routine changes and she isn’t in her “regular place” in the evenings. Routine is important to maintaining peace with people with Sundowners. At least, that is what we have found with Grandma. We can do anything we want with her through the day, but she should be well into her normal evening routine by then. Hope that helps and stay positive!

  8. bulldogsturf says:

    The first time I’ve heard of this.. very interesting… maybe that can be the reason that some suffering from depression feel worst when the sun goes down… very interesting discovery Julie…

  9. dogdaz says:

    I have been aware of this for many years and it is kind of scary when you are in the nursing home and many people go off at that time. Thanks for educating others. Personally, I think I have suffered from this since I am young. At the change from Dark to Light and Light to Dark my mood changes for a short time. I think it has something to do with the energy shift in the earth, but no one is going to research that, and most people don’t care to figure it out because of the population that suffers from it. Twighlight maybe the time of day when you take a break for 30 minutes and leave Anthony, until the astrological change has completed. Maybe this can save you the pain of watching him go through it, since there is no known remedy but to wait until dark.

  10. camsgranny says:

    This makes total sense to me, The Farmer and I used to call it “The Twilight time” of the day. It has calmed down a bit, simply because momma sleeps so much now. But we found, just rubbing her forehead, or holding her hand works wonders.

  11. Robyn Lee says:

    Interesting information Julie ~ I actually can relate to the concept of brain clock – I see shifts in pain levels with sunrise/sunset too… always wondered about it. Fascinating – I will read more on this…. BTW — one new idea for me is to try a med that is used for alzheimer’s ~ Namenda I think it is? Blocks a neurotransmitter called NMDA (glutamate) which plays a role in firing the nervous system and igniting pain levels. Wonder if the sun activity also might effect these neurotransmitters… Sending Love ~xo

  12. terry1954 says:

    i have taken care of many patients with sundowners

  13. I was aware of sundowners. You can still make the best of the morning time.

  14. viveka says:

    Wow, what an interesting reading – never heard of the sundowners syndrome. There is an explanation for everything and .. will not strong lamps in his room help. There is also lamps that they use up in the North of Sweden during the dark months when they only have 3 hours daylight. Maybe they will ease things for him. Here is an Australian website.

  15. I have seen patients experiencing sundowners. So sad, their unfounded fears all real, yet no one will believe them. Take care.

  16. I am aware of this. This makes so much sense to me,
    Having my own issues that are being affected by sunlight and or lack which affect my cognitive abilities I can see and feel how this makes so much sense.

    I hope Jules it helps you to know what is happening for Anthony. I am thinking it will but would never assume. Take care my friend ~

  17. I have heard of sundowning and found the link interesting……………..

  18. tersiaburger says:

    Sorry Julie, I too assumed you and more importantly, Ants’ caregivers, knew that it was Sundowning! When my Dad started at this stage, which occurred late in the course of his Alzheimers, the doctors prescribed. Seroquel. It helped. Maybe Anthony needs his medication adjusted?

    Julie, this is such a horrible stage of the disease. Good luck!
    Personality: Mood changes and personality alterations become more obvious, especially late in the day or when he or she is tired. He or she may become distrustful of loved ones, including you, or make unfounded accusations. Anxiety is common and is sometimes expressed by rummaging through drawers, aggressive behavior, yelling, or wandering through or away from the house. Hallucinations or delusions occur. Depression is a risk, often characterized by changes in appetite and sleep habits (he or she may be a lot hungrier or less hungry than usual, for example, or sleep much more or less than usual).

    Other: During middle-stage Alzheimer’s, it’s common to get disoriented in familiar environments as well as unfamiliar ones. Unplanned or new activities can be especially troubling. The sense of smell may be less sensitive, and incontinence becomes more common.

  19. Susan says:

    I wonder if this is why babies can be especially difficult at this time of day?

  20. Fergiemoto says:

    Interesting to learn about this. I had not heard of this syndrome before.

  21. Tammy says:

    I have never heard of this, but it explains so much. And I will also keep it in mind for my friend, whose mother is going through this, and also for me in my life. My pattern has always been that I have a wane towards the afternoon, evening, and then a spike at dinnertime. But it’s good to have awareness of the very real physical reaction to the biological rhythms. Thank you, as always Julie, for an informative and well-written post.

  22. Jules, if it is possible to make you feel any better about anything…I’ve forgotten about this. After going through it and knowing far too much about this syndrome, enough time has passed so that only reading it just now reminded me. You will get through this. Be gentle with yourself.

  23. dcwisdom says:

    I know. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. Yes, gentleness…that’s good.
    Catching up with you tonight.
    Love across the waves…. XO

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