Managing Common Sleep Problems in Adults with Alzheimer's

  • July 17, 2017

If you’re currently caring for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s, then you’re probably aware of the sleep disturbances this disease can cause. 

That can take its toll on you, the caregiver, as well. 

It’s not uncommon for adults with Alzheimer’s disease to experience changes in their sleep patterns. They’re drowsy during the day and restless at night. 

Why Sleep Disturbances Common in People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Even without Alzheimer’s disease, many older adults experience health problems that can make getting a good night’s sleep next to impossible. Alzheimer’s disease just makes these problems worse. The result can be a completely disrupted sleep cycle.

Approximately half of all seniors complain that they can’t sleep through the night. 

This fact comes to us from the National Institutes of Health, whose analysis of this issue lists the following common reasons for sleep problems in older adults:

  • Depression
  • Medical problems
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Other psychiatric illnesses

Check With a Doctor About Contributing Medical Factors

The health issues mentioned above, combined with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, can add up to some significant obstacles for your loved one when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.  

If your family member is experiencing sleep disturbances, it may be due to some of these factors. Therefore, they should have a thorough medical exam in case there’s a treatable, non-Alzheimer’s condition that’s affecting their sleep. 

Scientists aren’t quite sure why Alzheimer’s causes sleep problems. Doctors do, however, offer recommendations for managing these common sleep problems. 

How to Manage Sleep Problems in Someone with Alzheimer’s 

There are drug-based treatments to help with managing sleep problems in people with Alzheimer’s. However, doctors recommend natural treatments, such as the following, be tried first. 

Non-drug treatments include:

  • Avoid stimulating beverages like coffee
  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine
  • Treat pain
  • Eat meals at regular times
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Check bedroom temperature
  • Advise your loved one to refrain from watching television if he/she wakes up
  • Encourage exercise every day (but not right before bedtime)
  • Try and get morning sunshine
  • Ask the doctor if any of your loved one’s medications should be taken earlier in the day and not at bedtime

These might be healthy practices for everyone to follow for better sleep. However, if they don’t seem to be helping, there are sleep medications that might help. 

Keep in mind, however, that these medications often come with certain risks, especially for someone who is cognitively impaired. These drugs may cause worsening of other symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as increased risk of falling, confusion, and declining ability to perform basic functions. 

The Alzheimer’s Association, which issued the non-drug list of treatments above, also suggests the following drug-based treatments for sleep disturbances. Ask your doctor if any of them are suitable for your family member. 

Medication for treating sleep disturbances:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleeping pills
  • Atypical antipsychotics
  • Classical antipsychotics

As is the case with any new medication, pay close attention to their behavior so you can intervene if adverse reactions or dangerous side effects occur.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living

A good night’s rest is easier when one lives in a supportive environment and enjoys healthy meals and a wellness program. Five Star Senior Living offers all these in our award-winning Bridge to Recovery Program. If you’d like to find out more, please call a Five Star Senior Living community near you

 


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