• The Care Company

Sleep and Dementia: Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial and How to Help


If it seems like a loved one with Alzheimer’s has totally rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you are not dreaming. For reasons that aren’t yet entirely understood, difficulty with sleep and dementia often go hand in hand. Part of the problem lies in changes to the circadian rhythm that occur in dementia, resulting in sleepless nights and drowsy days.

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

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

Decreased sleep quality in Alzheimer's can lead to an increase in restlessness and delusions, and may cause serious safety concerns, including the potential for a senior to wander away and become injured or lost. Not just that, but a senior who's sleepy throughout the day may also be less inclined to participate in healthy activities, like spending time outdoors and exercising.

And, for a busy family caregiver who also needs rest, it can be quite difficult to satisfy all of the person’s care needs during the day and throughout the night as well.

Ways to Help

Try these strategies for a senior whose sleep patterns are interrupted:

  • Talk to the doctor for a review of medications. Modifying the dosage timing each day may be all it will require to make a difference.

  • Stick to a routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting naps, caffeine, and heavy meals later in the day.

  • Include bedtime activities that are relaxing, such as a warm bath, turning off the television and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.

  • If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can alert you when the older adult gets up so that you can help.

  • Try placing a clock that distinguishes between nighttime and daytime near the older adult's bed.

You may want to encourage the senior to try sleeping on their side rather than the stomach or back as well. Recent research revealed a possible link between side sleeping and more successful clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Keep in mind that this research was conducted on laboratory animals and it’s not clear yet if the results carry over to humans.

The Care Company, a leading provider of in-home care in the greater Toronto area, can help as well, with overnight caregivers who are alert and awake, taking care of the older adult's needs throughout the night so you can get the rest you need. Our caregivers are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to meeting the unique care needs of those with Alzheimer's disease. Contact us online or call us at (416) 422-2273 for more information on our specialized in-home Alzheimer's care services.


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