If it appears as though a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s has totally rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you’re not dreaming. Alzheimer’s and sleep problems can be related. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, many individuals with dementia experience changes with their circadian rhythm, resulting in sleepless nights and drowsy days.
The development of the disease is certainly 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 Senior with Dementia
Decreased sleep quality in Alzheimer’s can result in an increase in delusions and restlessness, and may cause serious safety concerns, such as the potential for an older adult to wander away and become injured or lost. Not just that, but a senior loved one who is sleepy during the day will also be less likely to want to participate in healthy activities, for example, spending time outdoors and exercising.
And, for a busy family caregiver who also needs rest and sleep, it can be quite a challenge to satisfy every one of the person’s care needs throughout the night and during the day as well.
Ways You Can Help
Try these strategies for a senior whose sleep patterns are interrupted:
- Speak to the health care provider, first of all, for a review of medications. Changing the dosage timing each day can be all is required to make a difference.
- Maintain a routine, including going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Limit caffeine, naps, and heavy meals later in the day.
- Incorporate bedtime activities that are relaxing, such as a warm bath, reading, turning off the television, and playing quiet, calming music.
- If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you as soon as the senior 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 an older adult to try sleeping on their side as opposed to the back or stomach. Recent research identified a potential link between side sleeping and more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Be aware that this study was conducted on laboratory animals and it is not clear yet whether the results carry over to humans.
JFS Care 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 handling the unique care needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Contact us, the Los Angeles, CA senior care experts, at (213) 383-2273 for more information on our specialized in-home dementia care services. Visit our website to see our full service area.