If it feels like a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s and sleep problems has totally rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you are not dreaming. For reasons that are not yet completely understood, many people with dementia experience changes to their circadian rhythm, leading to drowsy days and sleepless nights. 

The advancement of the disease is one contributing factor. Damage to brain cells causes increased weakness, making daily tasks and activities exhausting. Medication side effects from regularly-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 dementia can cause an increase in delusions and restlessness, and may cause serious safety concerns, such as the potential for a senior to wander away and become lost or injured. Not just that, but an older adult who’s sleepy throughout the day may also be less likely to want to engage in healthy activities, such as 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 throughout the night and during the day as well.

Tips on How to Help

Try these recommendations for a senior whose sleep patterns are disrupted:

  • Speak to the doctor, first and foremost, for a review of medications. Modifying the dosage timing each day can be all it will take to help make a difference.
  • Stick to a routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting caffeine, naps, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Incorporate bedtime activities that are soothing, such as a warm bath, turning off the TV and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can alert you if the senior gets up so that you can assist.
  • Try placing a clock that distinguishes between daytime and nighttime near the senior’s bed.

You may want to encourage a senior loved one to test sleeping on their side as opposed to the back or stomach as well. Recent research revealed a potential link between side sleeping and much more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Keep in mind that this research study was conducted on laboratory animals and it’s unclear yet if the results carry over to humans.

Charter Home Health can help as well, with overnight caregivers who are alert and awake, tending to the senior’s needs throughout the night so you can get the rest you need. Our care providers are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to taking care of the unique care needs of those with dementia. Reach out to us online or at (215) 935-6321 for more information on our specialized in-home Alzheimer’s care services and senior care in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.