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What Causes Poor Sleep Problems in People with Alzheimer's

What Causes Poor Sleep Problems in People with Alzheimer's

People with Alzheimer’s disease often seem to go without sleeping for long periods of time. It can make life difficult—and exhausting—-for spouses and caregivers. Sometimes the senior’s days and nights seem to be mixed up and other times they might be agitated and unable to relax enough to fall asleep. 

If you are trying to help a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease get a good night’s rest, here’s what you should know.

Why a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Might Not Be Sleeping 

Though researchers can’t say for sure why people with Alzheimer’s often experience sleep problems, they have a few reasons they believe might be factors:

  • Disrupted dream cycles: Research seems to indicate that people with Alzheimer’s experience changes in their dream and non-dreaming sleep cycle. This can prevent them from staying asleep for very long. 
  • Agitation: People with Alzheimer’s disease often live with increased agitation and anxiety. This makes it hard for the senior to relax and drift off to a peaceful night’s sleep.
  • Sundowning: Another behavior that is common in adults with Alzheimer’s disease is sundowning. This syndrome results in restlessness and wandering as the sun goes down. 
  • Medication side effect: Some medications can cause insomnia. Anti-depressants, steroids, decongestants, and high blood pressure medicines are just a few.
  • Overstimulation late in the day: Too much stimulation in the later part of the day can also keep a senior with Alzheimer’s awake. Watching dramatic or noisy television shows, exercising, or being in a hectic environment can all provide too much stimulation for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Helping a Senior with Alzheimer’s Sleep Better

While there are pharmacological interventions that can be used to help a senior with Alzheimer’s sleep, most physicians will say they should be a last resort. A few natural remedies that may help include:

  • Creating and sticking to a structured daily routine
  • Turning off the television a few hours before your loved one’s bedtime
  • Exercising early in the day instead of later in the afternoon or evening
  • Getting up and going to bed at the same time each day
  • Limiting stimulants like coffee or caffeinated soda to early in the day
  • Having a physician assess the senior for potential sources of pain 
  • Creating a peaceful, comfortable sleep environment with black out curtains and a cool room temperature
  • Talking with your family member’s physician or pharmacist to determine if any of their medications might be the cause
  • Trying aromatherapy techniques, such as lavender spray or a lavender essential oil 

If you try natural remedies like these and still don’t see any improvement in your loved one’s sleep, it may be necessary to discuss other interventions with their primary care physician. They can help you explore other options even if it is only a short-term solution to help get the senior on a healthier sleep track.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living

Caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease can be physically and emotionally exhausting. You might find yourself struggling to provide the type of care you want for your senior loved one. A quality memory care program, like those found in Five Star Senior Living communities across the country, can be the solution. 

Call the community nearest you today to learn how we help adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life.

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