The Link Between Dementia And Sleep: 5 Factors

Dementia and sleep affect each other and impact a person with dementia’s quality of life. Read on for some important points you should know about them.

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In this article:

  1. Looking at Dementia’s Effects on the Brain
  2. How Dementia Alters Sleep
  3. The Root Causes of Sleep Changes in People with Dementia
  4. The Effects of Sleep Problems on Dementia
  5. Helping People with Dementia Sleep Better
  6. How to Manage Night Wandering
  7. What Caregivers Go Through with People with Dementia

What You Must Know About Dementia and Sleep

Looking at Dementia’s Effects on the Brain

Dementia changes how a person’s brain is wired. It can affect how clear their memory is, how they talk, their presence of mind, and the physical activities they used to do well.

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It also impacts their social ties, since people with dementia may have issues remembering friends and family.

Caregivers of people with dementia should see it is a condition that rewires how their loved ones process their past and present lives.

People with dementia need a stress-free and safe place to live. Service providers and carers should treat every case of dementia as unique as the person suffering it.

How Dementia Alters Sleep

Dementia can also affect a person’s internal clock. Dementia patients suffer from sleeplessness at night and drowsiness during the day.

If they do sleep, any outside stimuli can wake them up. Some of them fail to achieve the deep restorative sleep our bodies need.

The Root Causes of Sleep Changes in People with Dementia

1. Neurological Changes

Dementia may be changing how the areas in the brain responsible for sleep work.

2. Uncommunicated Medical Condition

A person with dementia may have trouble telling what they’re feeling. Some conditions can sneak up on their caregivers.

People with dementia may also feel pain during sleep but fail to tell their carers.

3. Common Sleep Ailments

Sometimes people with dementia suffer from the common sleep problems tied to breathing, like snoring and sleep apnea.

4. Medications

Pain relievers and anti-depressants targeting dementia symptoms can also impact sleep.

5. Old Habits

Sometimes it’s an old habit for a patient to sleep at an irregular time. It’s best to investigate this by asking friends and family about the person with dementia’s sleep patterns.

The Effects of Sleep Problems on Dementia

Sleep problems can degrade the experience of daily life by making patients sluggish, confused, depressed, or physically uncoordinated.

Sleeplessness can also lead to sleepwalking or wandering at night. This impacts caregivers as well since they are forced to stay awake to make sure their patient doesn’t get lost or meet an accident.

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Helping People with Dementia Sleep Better

1. Sleep on a Set Time

Dementia connects to chaos and inconsistency. A consistent schedule can help curb the effects of dementia-related sleep issues by putting patients to rest at the same time every night.

2. Satisfy the Patient’s Sleep Quirks

Some patients sleep better with music or without. It’s best caregivers know these quirks and use them to condition the patients to sleep.

3. Let Them Out for Some Sun

If patients are drowsy during the day, carers can take them outside and let the sun wake them up. The exposure resets melatonin, the sleep hormone, to work at a later time.

4. Keep Patients Hydrated in the Mornings and Afternoons

Seniors with dementia need water but this can cause problems if they have to get up to pee. Limit liquid intake at night to prevent this problem.

5. Let Them Nap Before Lunch

Naps can help one energize on the fly. Napping in the afternoon is another matter since it disrupts sleep patterns.

Make sure patients sleep before lunch to avoid getting wakefulness issues when they should be sleeping.

6. Accept Their Sleep/Wake Cycles

Dementia patients need to feel safe. If they can’t sleep, don’t force them to because this may have the opposite effect.

7. Let Them Eat a Good Diet

A healthy balanced diet can be their ticket to a good night’s sleep. Give them calcium-rich foods as well, such as milk, since the mineral allows the body to make more of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Keep any sugar, carbs, or caffeine out of their diet to ensure these do not disrupt their sleep patterns.

8. Help Them Get Exercise

Sleep issues connect to energy management problems. If you give your loved one enough exercise, the activity will drain their energy later on and allow them to sleep.

9. Design a Good Sleep Environment

Turn your dementia patient’s room into one best for sleeping. One thing you can optimize is the lighting; fluorescent lights can trick the body into thinking it’s daytime.

Also, ensure their room is quiet and free from disturbances.

How to Manage Night Wandering

1. Troubleshoot Sleep Issues

Poor sleep can induce wandering at night. If you ensure a person with dementia sleeps well, you can cut down on incidences of night walking.

2. Eliminate Disturbances

People with dementia may sleep at night because of a disturbance or stimulus in their rooms. Keep the area quiet and may be able to prevent them from waking up and wandering.

3. Investigate Unmet Needs

Sometimes, a sensation bothers patients but they cannot communicate what it is. Try to get to know what they are potentially feeling to resolve the root issue.

Are they in pain? If they are, find out and see what might be causing it.

There are times the patients are restless about something. They can also become angry over our failure to meet their needs and become moody.

What Caregivers Go Through with People with Dementia

Caregivers also have their share of issues like sleeplessness, anxiety and worry, drastic lifestyle changes, and constant vigilance over their wards. These issues can stress and depress caregivers and like their patients, these carers also deserve help and support.

Dementia and sleep can tangle and lead patients with dementia on a downward spiral. Help them go through their symptoms by keeping the ideas in this article in mind and applying them to better manage a patient’s sleep better.

Are you caring for a family member with dementia now? How do you help them sleep better? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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