Dementia and Sleep Disruptions

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you already know the challenges that come with these progressive conditions. However, while most family members and caregivers are aware of the more common symptoms of dementia – the confusion, the wandering, the anxiety – most are not aware of the significant obstacle dementia causes when it comes to healthy sleep.

Getting a good night’s rest is crucial for everyone, no matter if you have dementia or not. Here are the facts about sleep disruption and dementia, along with a few tactics you can try if your loved one is not getting the sleep they need.

Why Sleep Disruption Happens

Dementia is a progressive cognitive disease, and it affects different parts of the brain throughout the condition. It’s no surprise that dementia would then eventually affect rest and fitful sleep, but most family members don’t realize it at first. 

Scientists aren’t quite sure why people living with dementia have a much more difficult time falling asleep and then staying asleep than their peers. However, it does appear that dementia affects the sleep-wake cycle and disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms. To add to the challenge, many older adults also experience sleep disruption due to medication side effects, restless leg syndrome, and pain issues.

How Poor Sleep Affects Family Caregivers

dementia and sleep disruptions

Caregivers need a good night’s sleep, as do their loved ones. If you are reaching for more cups of coffee in the morning because of your loved one’s sleep disruptions, it’s time to talk to their doctor.

Poor sleep habits affect both the person living with dementia as well as their family caregivers. For the person living with dementia, poor sleep can lead to decreased immune response, increased risk of falling, as well as increased depression and anxiety.

For the family caregiver who lives with the senior, they can feel frustrated and stressed out if they are also getting less sleep due to their loved one’s insomnia. This quickly leads to a weaker immune system, increased risk of high blood pressure, and less capacity to deal with challenges in their professional or personal life.

Tips for Better Sleep

Here are a few tips that you can use to increase the chances of your loved one getting a better night’s sleep while living with dementia:

  • Encourage more movement in the morning and afternoon
  • Get outside at least once per day 
  • Open the curtains to let the sunshine in throughout the day
  • Develop a calming nighttime routine
  • Use aromatherapy to cue the body to stay awake (orange or citrus) or to fall asleep (lavender)
  • Limit caffeine to the morning hours only

Most importantly, talk to your loved one’s physician about any sleep disruptions or changes in sleep patterns. They can offer a variety of recommendations based on your loved one’s specific medical history as well as talk to you about introducing sleep aids if appropriate.

The team at CaringGivers is here to assist you and your loved one throughout the dementia journey. Our caregivers can provide friendly social stimulation during the daytime hours to promote a better sleep schedule as well as assist with personal care during a nighttime routine. If you are struggling, our team is also here to provide respite care that will give you the time away from your caregiving role that you need to stay healthy.

Call us today to discover how our comprehensive services can benefit you and your loved one.

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