Dementia and Sleep

Published on Read in 7 mins

Sleep matters.  Dementia is often thought of as a memory problem. When the person you are looking after has dementia, you might have even more problems because they turn night into day, and are awake at the time when everyone else is asleep. 

Here are ten helpful hints to combat sleeplessness

1. Exercise works

Daytime naps are often caused by boredom rather than fatigue.  Exposure to daylight in the early part of the day helps regulate the body clock, so get out and moving if you can.

2. Bed time routines help

Just seeing the TV going off and the night lights going on signals bedtime. Some people find a soft toy comforting or even allow a real dog to sleep on top of the bed with them.  Whatever works is right.

3. Put away daytime things

If I wake and see my day clothes, I may put them on. Some care homes issue staff with dressing gowns so that residents waking up know it is not time to get up.

4. Warm bed, cooler room

A nice warm bed in a cooler room makes it more likely that the person will stay under the covers.

5. A darker room

You may need a night light, but dark conditions normally make sleep deeper and easier.  Movement sensors can switch on lights when they are needed.

6. Bed positioning

If you can, position the bed where the person can see the toilet, and then they can see the bed when they are there, encouraging them to return to bed after a short trip to the loo

7. Alleviate discomfort

The aches and pains that come with age seem harder at night, so make sure they’ve taken their pain medication before trying to settle.

8. A small night cap

Check with the doctor if a small alcoholic drink is allowed as a night cap

9. Keep a snack at hand

Snacks in the night may help, if someone wakes up. Keep something handy so you don’t have to go to the kitchen.

10. When using sedatives

The doctor may prescribe sedatives when you are at the end of your tether, and don’t feel guilty about them, but realise there may be a bit of a hangover causing sleepiness and risk of falls the next day.

For more on all of this check out Dementia the One Stop Guide