Easy Tips for Better Managing Dementia and Sleep

A cyclical effect exists with dementia and sleep; lack of sleep can exacerbate the dementia symptoms, and some medications may interfere with sleep.

If it feels like a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s has completely rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you are not dreaming. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, a number of people with dementia experience changes with their circadian rhythm, leading to sleepless nights and drowsy days. 

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

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Loved One with Dementia

Decreased sleep quality in dementia may cause an increase in delusions and restlessness and may also result in serious safety concerns, including the potential for a senior loved one to wander away and become lost or injured. In addition to safety concerns, an older adult who feels tired throughout the day may also be less likely to participate in healthy activities, such as spending time outdoors and exercising. 

For a busy family caregiver who also needs rest, it can be very difficult to satisfy all of the dementia care needs throughout the night and during the day as well. Implementing a management plan for dementia and sleep will help improve outcomes.

How You Can Help

Try these recommendations for a person whose sleep patterns are interrupted:

  • Talk to the physician, first and foremost, for a review of medications. A slight change, such as in the dosage timing, may be all it takes to see improvement.
  • Stick to a routine that includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting naps, caffeine, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Include soothing bedtime activities, such as a warm bath, turning off the TV and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is a problem, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you as soon as the older adult leaves the bed and likely needs assistance.
  • Try placing a clock that distinguishes between nighttime and daytime near the older adult’s bed.

Consider encouraging your loved one to test sleeping on their side instead of the back or stomach as well. Recent research revealed a potential link between side sleeping and much more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Note that this research study was conducted on laboratory animals and it is unclear yet if the results carry over to humans.

Golden Harmony is available to help as well, with professional caregivers and companions available for both daytime and overnight, who are awake and alert, tending to the older adult’s needs so you can get the rest you need. Our in-home caregivers are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to taking care of the unique care needs of individuals with dementia. Contact us at 919-426-7522 for more information on options for care services in Raleigh, NC and surrounding areas.

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