7 Ways to Minimize Sundowning in Alzheimer’s Patients

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by Wendy Henderson |

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“Sundowning” is the term used to describe the changes people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can often experience in the late afternoon/early evening. It seems that the changing of light brings on various symptoms such as mood changes, confusion, irritability, pacing, fear, and agitation. There are ways that you can minimize the effects of sundowning and based on information from healthline.com we’ve come up with a list of tips which may reduce the chance of it occurring.


Keeping to the same routine will help to minimize any confusion and stress for the Alzheimer’s patient. If you need to make changes, make them gradually over a period of time so you don’t unsettle the patient.

If you need to make appointments or want to plan social events or visits, try to make these in the morning when the patient is more likely to be receptive.

Change the Lighting

It’s thought that changing shadows may bring about stress, confusion and can frighten people with dementia and Alzheimer’s so as the sun begins to set, ensure the room they are in is brightly lit.

Consider Light Therapy

Some studies have found that Alzheimer’s patients may benefit from light therapy—where they sit in front of a full-spectrum fluorescent light for a couple of hours each day. This is supposed to improve mood and help avoid depression.

Find out more about sundowning and how it affects dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. 

Keep Active

Try to keep the Alzheimer’s patient as active as possible. Try gentle walks in the morning and then keep them alert during the afternoons with a game or other activity which may help keep them focused. Try not to let them nap for too long during the day as this will interfere with their nighttime sleep and could lead to fatigue, which is known to bring on sundowning.

Change Eating Patterns

Ideally, Alzheimer’s patients should eat larger meals during the day and a lighter supper, which may help them sleep better. They should also avoid other stimulants which could disturb sleep such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Ensure They Are Comfortable

Try to provide a familiar place for patients to rest in the afternoon. If they have to move into sheltered accommodation or a nursing home then you should put some of their treasured possessions in their room to make them feel more at home. Make sure they’re not too cold or too hot and have plenty of blankets and cushions.

Track Their Behavior

You can keep a diary of their behavior and moods over a period of a few weeks to see if there is a specific time each afternoon that is particularly troublesome for them. This may give you an idea of exactly what is triggering the sundowning and how to prevent it.

Dementia makes the world a frightening and confusing place as this video demonstrates.


Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.