Sleeping becomes more difficult for most of us as we grow older. Napping during the day is typical, but sleeping through the night can seem impossible. Even worse, those who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's, or similar conditions find sleep issues are even more of a problem. While sleep may be disrupted at any time, seniors seem to have more problems sleeping in the later stages of dementia. As Bay Area memory care experts, we want to help make you aware of the symptoms your loved one may be having, and how to help him or her get a better night's sleep.
Sleep disturbances often related to dementia
Many who suffer from dementia become more agitated or confused during the period from dusk until later on through the night, a condition referred to as Sundowner's Syndrome. This may be caused by the impact dementia has on the brain, and can result in sleep issues including:
Wandering at night. Those who suffer from dementia often wake at night, and it's not unusual to find them wandering around the house or even disrupting other members of the family. Agitation and confusion is common, and your loved one may be uncertain what time it is.
Sleep-wake cycle shifts. Many who have dementia may take several naps during the daytime hours because they often feel drowsy. At night, they often feel wide awake and may only sleep about 50% to 60% of the time, spending the remainder of the normal sleeping hours wide awake.
Problems staying asleep. Your loved one may fall asleep quickly, but not be able to stay asleep. Waking up many times during the night is common, and staying awake for some time is an issue as many dementia sufferers simply cannot lie still.
As a caregiver, what can you do to help?
If you're caring for an aging parent or another family member with dementia, there are some things you can do in an effort to reduce the sleep issues. These include:
Keeping your loved one physically and mentally active. During the daytime hours, try to involve your loved one in household tasks or other chores. Go for a walk, help him/her do something mentally challenging such as working a jigsaw puzzle or playing a game. It's important to avoid physical activity during the evening hours, however, as you want your loved one to be able to relax and sleep.
Avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol can make those with dementia even more confused, and caffeine can result in sleeplessness. Try to avoid these substances, especially later in the day.
Making sure your loved one's bedroom is comfortable. Plug in a nightlight, make sure the mattress is comfortable, and keep the temperature at a level that's not too cool or warm. A comfortable environment can enhance sleep.
A quiet environment during evening hours encourages better sleep. Keep the distractions and noise down in the hours prior to bedtime, and consider soft music to help your loved one relax rather than television, the internet, or other things that can be too stimulating.
It's important to establish a routine at night that will help your loved one feel more relaxed and calm as bedtime approaches. Most important of all, if your loved one does wake during the night, be sure to attend to his/her needs, and gently remind him or her that it's night and time to get back in bed.
Need help caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's? At Care Indeed, our home caregivers are dedicated to providing the best care possible for seniors in Menlo Park and surrounding cities in the Bay Area.