Can Those with Dementia Improve Sleep Quality?

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Dementia can make sleep challenging.

The effects of dementia on those who have it are highly disruptive to daily life, let alone those who provide care for them.

Most people are primarily aware of how dementia makes people forgetful and can change their personalities or temperaments.

Caregivers often have more intimate knowledge of the challenges associated with the illness.

According to a recent AARP article titled “8 Ways to Help Someone With Dementia Get a Good Night’s Sleep,” dementia directly impacts sleep quantity and quality.

Changing certain habits can help those with dementia sleep better.
Dementia patients can improve their sleep quality by enjoying a daily short walk in the sunshine.

The Mayo Clinic estimates about one in four individuals with mild or moderate dementia struggle with sleep.

Those with more advanced stages of dementia, Parkinson’s disease dementia, and Lewy body dementia are commonly prone to disordered sleep.

Poor sleep affects not only those with dementia but also their caregivers.

How can caregivers help their loved ones with dementia sleep more soundly?

While sleeping pills may seem like a simple solution, they can exacerbate common dementia symptoms.

As a result, caregivers may find their loved ones more anxious, depressed, confused, agitated, or aggressive.


What are better alternatives for helping your loved ones with dementia rest well?

Facilitating access to sunshine. 

Those with dementia typically have messed up cycles between sleep and wake.

According to Monica Moreno, the senior director of Care and Support at the Alzheimer’s Association, studies have shown a connection between exposure to 20 minutes of bright light daily and reduced depression.

By combining physical activity with time in the sunlight through even a simple walk outdoors, those with dementia may feel more tired and ready for rest at bedtime.

Reducing the number of naps. 

Frequent naps during the day can make the body restless at night.

Often boredom leads to falling asleep during the day.

Although this can help caregivers accomplish chores, it is better to limit naps to less than an hour once daily.

Engaging loved ones in various activities can reduce naps in length and frequency.

Serve the proper meal at the right time. 

People need to eat to fuel their bodies.

Although carbs help provide energy during the day, proteins often promote sleepiness and should be served in evening meals.

No more liquids after a certain hour. 

Although hydration is important, drinking fluids close to bedtime can lead to the need to wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Caffeine and some medications like blood pressure pills can also increase the frequency of urination.

Minimizing caffeine intake or shifting consumption to earlier in the day can prove beneficial.

If your doctor does not recommend switching medications, you can also schedule these prescriptions to be taken earlier in the day.

Create a pleasant sleeping environment.

Certain habits and settings are not conducive to good rest.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends tablets, phones, and televisions not be used at least one to two hours before bedtime.

Additionally, drawing curtains, dimming lights, keeping the bedroom cool, and reducing noise promote better sleep.

Have a consistent bedtime routine. 

Routines provide predictability and consistency in life.

They can also help the body get into a rhythm.

Good bedtime routines for those with dementia include going to the restroom, changing into pajamas, taking baths, getting back rubs, and participating in soothing activities like listening to music or a book.

Add a dose of melatonin. 

Melatonin is a natural substance known for promoting sleep.

Often melatonin is taken as a pill and is available without a prescription.

It may take some trial and error to determine the best dosage.

Too much melatonin can have the opposite effect and make sleep more challenging.

Get help. 

Most physicians recommend exhausting other solutions before seeking a drug regimen.

Reach out to the doctor of your loved one if your loved one continues to struggle with sleeping.

This may be a sign of other medical issues.

By promoting better sleep, caregivers can improve their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones with dementia.

Reference: AARP (February 6, 2023) “8 Ways to Help Someone With Dementia Get a Good Night’s Sleep”

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