Sundowners Syndrome, also known as “sundowning,” is the name give to an ailment that causes symptoms of confusion after sundown. Some people who suffer from Sundowners exhibit symptoms all day that grow worse in the late afternoon and evening, while others may exhibit no symptoms at all until the sun goes down. The symptoms appear in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia or in elderly people who may be recovering from surgery in a hospital. Not all people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s have Sundowners.
There are several theories as to why the symptoms of Sundowners begin at night, yet the cause still largely remains a mystery to medical science. Some doctors believe the symptoms might be due to accumulation of all the sensory stimulation from the day that begins to overwhelm and cause stress. Other professionals think that Sundowners is caused by hormonal imbalances that occur at night. Still other researchers believe that the onset of the symptoms at night might be due to fatigue. And finally there is a theory that Sundowners has to do with anxiety caused by the inability to see as well in the dark.
The theory that Sundowners has something to do with darkness has been supported by studies where the symptoms subside within an hour of the return or daylight. There has also been research that demonstrates that assisted living patients show an increase in symptoms during the winter possibly because of the shorter periods of sunlight.
There are many symptoms of Sundowners Syndrome that are usually unique to each individual, but most all sufferers exhibit some form of illogical and irrational behavior. The sufferer may suddenly claim to see angels in the room or believe that something has been stolen from them. They may not recognize close friends and family or become terrified at the thought of loved ones leaving even for a moment. Wandering is a very dangerous symptom of Sundowners because the sufferer may suddenly be missing and not know where he or she is going or why.
Look for the following symptoms to either increase or on-set at sundown in someone with Sundowners Syndrome: Rapid mood changes, anger, crying, agitation, fear, pacing, stubbornness, depression, rocking, restlessness, hallucinations, hiding things, paranoia, violence, and wanderings. Occasionally someone suffering with Sundowners will shadow loved ones closely from room to room. They may ask questions, but interrupt before an answer is given, and they may also ask questions more than once.