What is Sundowners syndrome?

a dark sunset

I heard someone refer to their husband as having Sundowners syndrome and didn’t know what this meant to him and others with dementia.

Sadness, agitation, fear, and other mood and behaviour changes that occur just before dark are called Sundowner’s Syndrome. It is also known as “Sundowning”.

Carers may notice that their partner with dementia becomes more agitated at twilight.

People with  dementia who suffer with Sundowner’s Syndrome may also “shadow” their partner or carer following them around and doing everything they do.

They might ask questions or interrupt when other people are in conversation. They may lose their full language abilities, and abstract thoughts may become especially difficult for them to comprehend.

What causes Sundowning ?

The theory is that the symptoms have something to do with the onset of darkness, however doctors & researchers are not sure what causes it.

  • Some medical professionals believe that the syndrome is an accumulation of all of the sensory stimulation from the day that starts to overwhelm and cause stress.
  • Others suggest it is caused by hormonal imbalances that occur at night.
  • Another theory suggests that the onset of symptoms at night is due to fatigue.
  • Some believe it has to do with the anxiety caused by the inability to see as well in the dark.

What are the symptoms Sundowning?

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Pacing
  • Aggitation
  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Stubbornness
  • Restlessness
  • Rocking
  • Hallucinations
  • Hiding things
  • Crying
  • Wandering

Look out for my up forthcoming article on how to prevent or manage Sundowning.




Award-winning blogger and care columnist for Devon Life magazine, Caron also campaigns for recognition of the needs elderly people and their carers. Designer and creator of the award-winning Dementia Assistance Cards which are free to all, and helping thousands of people globally Caron is passionate and committed to making a difference

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