Addressing Sleep Issues Related to Dementia

Image
resident and caregiver sitting on bed

If you are the caregiver for an older adult who has dementia, you might be having difficulty getting them to sleep. Family members often say it seems like their loved one can go for days without sleeping. It makes for what experts call a “36-hour day.” It can be exhausting for the caregiver and the senior.

While it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the cause of insomnia in a senior with dementia, there are some common issues. Here are a few to discuss with your loved one’s physician.

5 Causes of Sleep Problems in Seniors with Dementia

  1. Overly busy schedule late in the day

It can be hard for people with dementia to process too much information or an overly busy environment. When a senior’s afternoon and evening schedule is hectic, they might feel agitated and have trouble unwinding. This makes falling and staying asleep difficult.

A solution is to schedule activities and appointments early in the day. Keep the afternoon and evening quieter. Turn off the television and play soothing music instead. Take out magazines or old photos for the senior to look through. The goal should be to keep things peaceful and relaxing.

  1. Late afternoon naps

When the days and nights are mixed up, an adult with dementia might begin taking long naps in the afternoon. While they might feel refreshed afterwards, in the long run it will only worsen their insomnia.

Should the senior really need a nap, encourage them to lay down midday instead of later in the afternoon. It might help if you model napping with them to encourage your senior loved one to try to sleep.

  1. Other sleep disorders

Share the situation with the senior’s doctor to be sure there isn’t another problem preventing them from sleeping. Sometimes medical issues are responsible for sleep difficulties. It could be sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome.

The physician might be able to order an in-home sleep study in lieu of a clinic-based test. That eliminates concerns about an adult who has a memory impairment spending the night in a strange environment.

  1. Not having a routine

Adults with a memory impairment often do better when their days are structured and their routine stays the same. Researchers think this helps because it requires less short-term memory. For adults with memory loss, short-term memory is typically impacted early in the disease progression.

  1. Other lifestyle and environmental issues

If none of the tips listed above seem to help, there are a few more things to consider:

  • Is their bedroom too hot?
  • Is their bed uncomfortable?
  • Is a medication or side effect causing sleeplessness?
  • Do they have undiagnosed chronic or acute pain?
  • Are they consuming too much caffeine, especially later in the day?

If you’ve concluded that your senior loved one’s quality of life would be better in a memory care community, we hope you will consider Five Star Senior Living. With 260 communities in 33 states, you’ll likely find one near you. Call us at (853) 457-8271 to learn more!