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Why do people with dementia have sleep issues?

How can I help my mom sleep better? She has Alzheimer's and only sleeps a couple of hours each night.
Status: Open    Aug 31, 2014 - 09:40 AM


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APFM Staff Answers

Feb 21, 2015 - 01:52 PM

It is not uncommon for people with dementia to have poor sleep patterns. One thought is that the part of the brain that regulates your sleep is disrupted by the dementia. Many times as the dementia progresses this can increase resulting in around-the clock naps with only short periods of time of being awake.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are some ideas to try to help:
1. Light Therapy - exposure to bright sunlight in the morning for a few hours can help. There is something called light therapy that can also help if sunshine is not common in your area of the country.
2. Avoiding caffiene and alcohol as these can actually stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
3. Managing medications. Talk to her Doctor about her meds and see if there are some that she is taking at night that may have a stimulant affect. Perhaps these can be changed to the morning. Transversely, are there some that have a side-effect of drowsiness that should be taken at night rather than in the morning.
4. Encourage physical activity. Depending on her physical ability, this could range from assisted-stretching while seated in a chair to taking a walk outside or at a gym.
5. Limit the naps during the day. It stands to reason that if she is kept stimulated during the day (cognitively and physically) she would stay awake and sleep better at night. Adult Day Centers are one option to have a place to go during the day and have activities throughout the day and come home at night.
6. Establish a routine nightly. Much like when we were younger, people with dementia do much better with set routines. Make sure that distractions are at a minimum and limit TV and other noises for the last 1/2 hour to hour before it's time for bed. Many people with dementia also have anxiety, so if there is soft music or items of comfort that can be incorporated into this routine it could be beneficial.
7. Are there any underlying conditions? A Doctor can help rule out other items such as sleep apnea, pain, or depression that may interfere with her sleep.


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