Disruptive nocturnal behavior, often referred to as sundowning, is a commonly encountered clinical problem in most forms of dementia. This study compared disruptive nocturnal behavior in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Questionnaire data were collected from 60 AD and 48 PD caregivers. Respondents were asked to record the typical time of day when any of seven disruptive behaviors were evidenced in their patients, if at all. Two scores were computed: (1) a sundowning score (number of nocturnal disruptive behaviors, range 0-7), and (2) a total score (number of disruptive behaviors without regard to time, range 0-7). Results indicated PD patients were more likely than AD patients to exhibit disruptive nocturnal behavior. The dose, timing, or number of years on antiparkinsonian medication were not related to nocturnal disruptive behavior within the PD patient group. These findings raise the possibility that sundowning in PD patients may be a manifestation of dopaminergic depletion within the basal ganglia or other abnormalities involving the cholinergic, serotoninergic and/or noradrenergic systems in the brainstem. © 1995, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.