Dementia and Sleeplessness: How to Resolve This Common Problem

Dementia and Sleeplessness: How to Resolve This Common Problem

If it seems like a senior with Alzheimer’s has completely rewritten the rules on when and how to sleep, you’re not dreaming. For reasons that are not yet completely understood, dementia and sleeplessness often go hand in hand, with changes to the circadian rhythm bringing about drowsy days and sleepless nights.

The development of the disease is certainly one contributing factor. Damage to brain cells causes increased weakness, making everyday tasks and activities exhausting. Medication side effects from regularly-prescribed dementia treatments can further exacerbate the problem.

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Senior with Alzheimer's

Decreased sleep quality in dementia can result in an increase in delusions and restlessness, and may cause serious safety concerns, including the potential for the senior to wander away and become lost or injured. Not just that, but a senior who is sleepy during the day may also be less likely to participate in healthy activities, such as spending time outdoors and exercising.

And, for a busy family caregiver who also needs sleep, it is typically quite a challenge to fulfill all of the person’s care needs throughout the night and during the day as well.

Tips to Help

Try these guidelines for a senior whose sleep patterns are disrupted:

  • Speak to the doctor, first of all, for a review of medications. Modifying the dosage timing each day might be all it takes to help make a difference.
  • Adhere to a routine, waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, limiting caffeine, naps, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Include bedtime activities that are relaxing, such as a warm bath, turning off the TV and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you when the older adult gets up so that you can assist.
  • Try placing a clock that differentiates between daytime and nighttime near the senior’s bed.

You may want to encourage the senior to try sleeping on their side as opposed to the back or stomach as well. Recent research revealed a potential link between side sleeping and more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Note, however, that this study was conducted on laboratory animals and it is uncertain yet whether or not the results carry over to humans.

Amy’s Helping Hands, the award-winning provider of home care in Windsor, Ontario and nearby areas, can help as well, with overnight caregivers who are awake and alert, looking after the older adult's needs throughout the night so you can get the rest you need. Our care team members are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to meeting the unique care needs of those with Alzheimer's disease. Give us a call at 519-915-4370 for more information on our specialized in-home Alzheimer's care services.