Sleep changes and disturbances are common for those living with dementia. Often caregivers are stressed out and lack sleep because their loved one living with dementia is up many times at night. A caregiver may become irritable, sleep deprived, and short tempered causing caregiver burnout. It is said as we age, aging adults spend less time in the REM stage of sleeping and also need less sleep. There are many reasons for sleep disturbances. Listed below are common culprits and suggestions for improving the situation.
1) Medications. Some medications have side effects that may cause sleep disturbances at night or restless sleeping. Be sure to communicate with your doctor so they can adjust or try a new medication as needed.
2) Medical issues such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Ask your physician about interventions you can put in place to reduce symptoms so you and your loved one can have a good nights rest.
3) Sleep during the day- up all night! Some people with dementia tend to get their internal body clock switched around. With less activity at home, they tend to sleep all day and then are more restless or get up more at night. Staying active with structured activities during the day can help regulate our internal body clock. Programs like the one at Meadowview Memory Care Village provides consistent cognitive and physical engagement helping to improve sleep patterns. If you are not quite ready to transition your loved one to a memory care community, you might consider Milestones Adult Day programs.
4) Reduced lighting. Reduced lighting causes increased shadows. Therefore, a person living with dementia might think these are shadows of people or objects which causes them to have a harder time sleeping at night. Consider placing night lights or dim lamps in areas your loved one spends a lot of time in. This may improve their vision and reduce anxiety.
If you notice that your loved one is having sleep disturbances, try some of the above suggestions. Sleep disturbances can be caused by many different factors so it is always appropriate to talk with a medical professional to find the best result.