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IKF Blog
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

5 ways to help someone with Alzheimer’s sleep better

All of us have experienced a restless night when we found it hard to fall or stay asleep. If we ever doubted the importance of rest, we are reminded first-hand as we struggle through the next day with brain fog and an inability to think clearly.

Sleep is needed for normal memory function. But for those with Alzheimer’s, the frequency of sleep disturbances often increases as the disease progresses. The consequences for both the individual and their caregiver can result in agitation, stress and exhaustion.

Sleep disturbances affect between 25% - 60% of those with Alzheimer’s, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information National Library of Medicine. The most common occurrences include insomnia, sleep fragmentation and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Those who care for someone with Alzheimer’s may find themselves desperate to help improve their loved one’s sleep patterns. Becoming educated and experimenting with different methods may help. Although there are no easy answers, there are steps the caregiver can try in the search for a restful night’s sleep.

Alzheimer’s and sleep

As Alzheimer’s progresses, individuals may begin to sleep more during the day and wake up frequently during the night. Sleeping for long periods at a time may become less common. If the individual wakes up more often, it can also take longer to go back to sleep. They may begin to wander, find it impossible to lie still or will begin calling out.  Nighttime darkness and shadows can cause confusion and fear.

Those with cognitive illnesses may also begin to feel sleepy during the day or become more agitated in the late afternoon or early evening referred to as “sundowning.” The Alzheimer’s Association estimates those in the later stages of the disease spend around 40% of their time in bed at night awake and a significant part of the daytime sleeping.

An additional problem of course is that not only does sleep disturbance agitate behavior and moods, it also can have a great impact on the caregiver. Their night’s rest is likely to be determined by that of their loved one.

5 suggestions to try improving your loved one’s sleep

If disturbed sleep is a new behavior, it’s important to rule out any medical or other causes. Talk to a doctor if any medications being taken might be causing insomnia or should be given at a different time. Also, make sure there isn’t pain or discomfort causing the lack of sleep.

Consider these ideas to see if they might have a positive impact on sleep patterns.

1. Set the mood

Help your loved one relax by reading out loud or playing calming music in the evening before bedtime. Create the best sleep environment possible with a comfortable bed, coverings and the right room temperature.

2. Keep a regular schedule

It may help to have a sleep and wake schedule, along with regular times for meals. The pattern or consistency of the routine can help. Also, discourage late afternoon napping.

3. Discourage stimulating activities

As evening approaches, try to discourage any activities that may stimulate your loved one, including the use of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Use this time to help the person wind down, both physically and emotionally.

4. Exercise and the right light can help

Encourage regular exercising but make sure it occurs earlier in the day or is finished at least four hours before bedtime. Upon waking, morning sunlight can help with orientation. Daylight exposure can also clarify the day and night schedule.

5. Ask first what they need

If your loved one wakes up at night, don’t argue and try not to show your frustration. Check first if there’s a problem. Do they have discomfort, are they too hot or cold or need to go to the bathroom? If they need to pace, allow it but stay with them.

The caregiver needs rest as well

If you aren’t able to get enough sleep, you’ll find it even more of a challenge to provide the kind of care you’d like. Your stress will increase which can result in your loved one responding with agitation. If you’re not getting any sleep, your physical and emotional wellbeing will suffer. Try asking family, friends or other respite sources to take the night shift periodically so that you can have a break.

If lack of sleep continues

For some families, continued sleep disturbances will take too much of a toll on both the individual and the caregiver. Suffering from a lack of sleep can severely interfere with the caregiver’s ability to provide a safe environment during the day. This is one reason that many will turn to a memory care community to ensure that their loved one receives the best care and quality of life possible.

Ingleside at King Farm Memory Support Assisted Living

We understand the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s as well as the importance of making sure they are supported in living the highest quality of life. Sleep disturbances and deprivation can present one of the biggest hurdles with home care, especially if it falls on the shoulders of one exhausted caregiver.

We have the highly trained and compassionate staff to provide the care and supportive environment for your loved one, even in the middle of the night. Your ability to get the rest you need will not only improve your own health but provide strength and energy as you continue to care and be there for your loved one.

Call (240) 455-4582 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a personalized tour today.

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