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5 Strategies for Helping Seniors with Alzheimer’s and Sleep Problems

Senior woman with Alzheimer's and sleep problems laying in bed with her eyes open
For further assistance with Alzheimer’s and sleep issues, our Portage home health care team is here to help.

If it appears as though a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s has completely rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you’re not dreaming. For reasons that aren’t yet fully understood when it comes to Alzheimer’s and sleep, many people with the disease experience changes to their circadian rhythm, resulting in sleepless nights and drowsy days.

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

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Senior with Dementia

Decreased sleep quality from Alzheimer’s and dementia may cause an increase in restlessness and delusions, and can cause serious safety concerns, including the potential for an older adult to wander away and become lost or injured. Not just that, but a loved one who’s sleepy throughout the day will also be less likely to take part in healthy activities, such as spending time outdoors and exercising.

And, for very busy family caregivers who also need rest and sleep, it is typically quite difficult to fulfill all of the other person’s care needs during the day and throughout the night as well.

How You Can Help

Try these strategies for a senior whose sleep patterns are disrupted:

  • Speak to the doctor for a review of medications. Changing the dosage timing each day can make a difference.
  • Stick to a routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting naps, caffeine, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Include bedtime activities which are soothing, for example, a warm bath, turning off the television and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is an issue, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you if the senior gets up so that you can help.
  • Try placing a clock that distinguishes between daytime and nighttime near the senior’s bed.

You may want to encourage a loved one to test sleeping on their side rather than their stomach or back as well. Recent research revealed a potential link between side sleeping and more successful clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Be aware that this research was conducted on laboratory animals and is not clear yet whether the results carry over to humans.

Home Sweet Home In-Home Care 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 Alzheimer’s disease. Contact our Portage home health care team to learn more about our specialized in-home dementia care services. To learn more about all of the different communities we serve in Michigan, please visit our Locations page.

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