Alzheimer’s Sleep Problems and How to Help

Alzheimer’s sleep issues can be exhausting for the entire family.

If it looks like a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s has entirely rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you are not dreaming. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, Alzheimer’s sleep issues are not uncommon and arise from changes to an individual’s circadian rhythm, resulting in sleepless nights and drowsy days. 

The advancement of the disease is certainly one contributing factor. Damage to brain cells causes increased weakness, making daily tasks and activities exhausting. Medication side effects from regularly-prescribed dementia treatments can further aggravate the issue. 

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Senior Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Decreased sleep quality in Alzheimer’s may result in an increase in delusions and restlessness and can result in serious safety concerns, such as the potential for a senior to wander away and become lost or injured. Not only that, but a senior loved one who is sleepy during the day will also be less likely to want to participate in healthy activities like spending time outdoors and exercising. 

And, for a very busy family caregiver who also needs sleep at night, it is typically quite difficult to meet every one of the person’s care needs throughout the night and during the day as well.

How You Can Help

Try these tips for a senior whose sleep patterns are interrupted:

  • Talk to the doctor, first and foremost, for a review of medications. Modifying the dosage timing each day may be all it takes to make a difference.
  • Maintain a routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting caffeine, naps, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Incorporate bedtime activities which are relaxing, for example, a warm bath, turning off the TV and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can alert you as soon as the senior gets up so that you can help.
  • Try placing a clock that differentiates between nighttime and daytime near the senior’s bed.

You may want to encourage a senior to test sleeping on their side rather than the back or stomach as well. Recent research revealed a potential link between side sleeping and more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Remember that this research was conducted on laboratory animals and it’s uncertain yet whether or not the results carry over to humans.

CareWorks Health Services is available to help as well, with overnight caregivers who are alert and awake, tending to the senior’s needs throughout the night so you can get the rest you need. Our caregivers are fully trained and experienced in creative patient approaches to meeting the unique care needs of those with dementia. Contact us online or at (949) 859-4700 for more information on our respite care in Newport Beach and the surrounding communities.