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Sundowning May Cause Increased Symptoms at the End of the Day

sundownDoes your loved one experience anxiety, change in mood, or depression around sundown? He or she could be experiencing sundowner's syndrome, or sundowning, which is marked by mood changes or increased anxiety, depression, fear or anger around twilight each day.   

People with Sundowner's Syndrome may also "shadow" their caregivers, following them around and doing everything they do. They might ask questions over and over or interrupt conversations with someone else. They may lose their full language abilities, and abstract thoughts may become especially difficult for them to comprehend.



Behaviors and Emotions of Sundowner's Syndrome

Someone with sundowner’s syndrome may exhibit some of the following behaviors as daylight begins to fade:

  • Agitation and outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Stubbornness
  • Restlessness.

Causes of Sundowning

Doctors and researchers aren't sure what causes sundowning, but the theory is that the symptoms have something to do with the onset of darkness.

Some medical professionals believe that the syndrome is an accumulation of all the sensory stimulation from the day that becomes overwhelming and causes stress. Others speculate that it is caused by hormonal imbalances that occur at night. Another theory suggests that the onset of symptoms at night is simply due to fatigue, and others believe it has to do with the anxiety caused by the inability to see as well in the dark.

How to Handle Sundowners Syndrome

  1. Approach the person in a calm manner. Don't yell, raise your voice, or touch them in an unexpected way.
  2. Draw the curtains so they cannot see the sky change from light to dark. When drawing the curtains, turn on inside lights to keep the environment light and calming.
  3. Provide a peaceful setting. Guide the person to an area away from family activity and other distractions. Try to prevent excessive noise and commotion during sunset.
  4. Plan more active days. A person who rests most of the day is likely to be awake at night. Discourage afternoon napping and plan activities, such as a walk, throughout the day.
  5. Have a routine. Maintaining a routine tends to alleviate the severe anxiety experienced by those sundowning. Even simple tasks like putting on pajamas can be helpful triggers that the day is winding down.

For more information, see

Whether or not you fully understand Sundowner's Syndrome, the challenging behaviors that accompany this time of day can be extremely taxing and stressful. Doing everything you can to eliminate the effects of sundowning will make for a more pleasant evening and healthier rest for everyone in the home.

About Sacred Heart Villa

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.  The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, cafĂ© and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day, and is open to the public.

Sacred Heart Villa is accepting new residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit or visit us at