Keeping Dementia Patients In Bed At Night

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: April 27, 2022
Last updated: April 6, 2023

Dementia and sleep difficulties go hand in hand. The relationship between dementia and sleep is a significant cause of stress for family caregivers. When your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia doesn’t sleep well, you definitely won’t get enough sleep either.

Read on to discover the reasons for sleep problems in seniors with dementia and get tips for better sleep.

Dementia And Sleep Problems

Sleep disturbances are common in both dementia- and non-dementia-affected older adults. Numerous seniors report changes in their sleep quality, number of hours slept, and amount of time spent awake at night. Indeed, starting in middle age, older adults' overall sleep time falls by roughly 30 minutes per decade.

These issues are considerably more common in dementia patients. Sleep disturbances can vary in nature and degree depending on the cause of your loved one's dementia and the stage of the disease. 

Your dementia-affected loved one may encounter the following sleep disturbances:

  • Inability To Maintain Or Fall Asleep – This can be caused by insomnia, sleep cycle disorders, medication side effects, or a mixture of these factors.
  • Sundown Syndrome – Sundown syndrome is characterized by high levels of disorientation, agitation, anxiety, and aggression in the evening or late at night.
  • Issues With Sleep Movement – This can be restless legs syndrome — a persistent impulse to move the legs during periods of rest — or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, which causes individuals to act out their dreams.
  • Breathing Disorders While Sleeping – This could be due to sleep apnea, which affects approximately 50% of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

8 Tips To Help Dementia Patients Sleep At Night Better

If you're caregiving for a family member who has dementia, you're undoubtedly focused on improving sleep. Adequate sleep can significantly enhance your loved one's happiness, health, and overall quality of life — as well as your own. Here are some tips for assisting your family member with dementia in getting a good night's sleep.

1. Treat Pain And Other Medical Conditions

Treating chronic pain may aid in your loved one's sleep improvement. If your parent's sleep is being disturbed by a disorder such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, obtaining medical treatment may help.

2. Create A Calming Environment

Ensure that your loved one's room is suitable for a peaceful slumber. The environment should be dark, silent, and chilly (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit).

3. Be Aware Of Medication Side Effects

Numerous people with dementia are on multiple medications. Certain medications, such as stimulants or diuretics, might impair sleep. In some situations, it may be possible to switch prescriptions or alter the time of day at which a particular medication is administered to aid in sleep improvement.

4. Encourage Daily Physical Activity

Support your dementia-stricken loved one in getting daily exercise. For instance, you could take a morning walk together. It is preferable to arrange physical exercise early in the day, as being overtired in the evening may worsen agitation.

5. Get Some Sunlight

Go outside or into bright light as soon as possible after waking up in the morning to aid in sleep cycle regulation. Reduce the brightness of the lights in the evenings as you approach bedtime.

6. Create A Sleep Routine

Make a real effort to get your loved one to bed at the same time each night. Establishing a peaceful sleep routine may also be beneficial. For instance, you can dim the lights and play relaxing music before going to bed.

7. Limit Daytime Naps

Excessive daytime sleep might contribute to poor nighttime sleep, so try to limit it as much as possible.

8. Say Goodbye To Stimulants

Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine may affect sleep.

Sleep Aids: Melatonin, Medications, And Dementia

In some instances, the doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to assist your loved one. However, since elderly individuals with cognitive impairment are more likely to develop sleep-inducing medication side effects, these are often not advised for long-term use.

Melatonin has been shown in several trials to aid sleep in persons with mild to moderate dementia. It may also assist with late-day anxiousness and confusion. Consult your loved one's physician before beginning any OTC supplements or sleep aids.
Wondering what the stages of dementia are? Check out this blog covering different stages of dementia for elderly individuals.

Was this article helpful?
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
After years of living under the care of your parents and other family members, the time will arrive for you to reciprocate. At Senior Strong, you can show your loved ones just how much you value them.
642 W 28th St, Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 877-8342
Senior Strong © Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved