Dementia-related sleep problems and how can they be treated

What are Dementia-related sleep problems and how can they be treated?

Seniors can have a hard time getting enough quality sleep, more so if they have dementia, with sleep disturbance noticed in 50% of all severe dementia cases. This condition affects the normal working of the brain, particularly the sleep hormone, otherwise known as melatonin. As a result, normal sleep and wake cycles are disrupted. But what exactly triggers dementia-related sleep complications? More importantly, what can you do to cope, and are there any possible treatment options? How can assisted living communities help? Let’s get you those pressing answers. 

Common sleep complications due to dementia

Depending on the severity, among a host of other factors, dementia causes a range of sleep problems that vary on a case-by-case basis. However, the most common ones include: 

  • Excessive sleeping. Perhaps your loved one now sleeps an extra 3 or 4 hours than usual.
  • Trouble getting to sleep, which is often mistaken for ordinary insomnia 
  • Difficulties staying asleep, i.e. your loved one often wakes up in the middle of the night or can’t stitch together a significant span of sleep 
  • Switched sleeping cycles, e.g. seniors now sleep more during the day than they do at night. 
  • RBD disorder, which you may know as dream-enactment parasomnia. In other words, there’s kicking, thrashing, punching, etc. while one is asleep

Overall, sleep disruptions can have dire consequences for elders with dementia. These can disrupt the immune system, lead to bad moods, and hinder your loved one’s ability to think clearly. As the body experiences piling stress as a result, the likelihood of falls and other accidents escalates as well. 

If your elderly loved one experiences other sleep problems beyond this list, our community senior living experts would love to hear and help you out so get in touch.   

How to manage a loved one’s dementia-related sleep problems

For one, observing a gadget-free, pre-bedtime routine can help. The blue light most gadgets emit have been shown to negatively impact our sleep patterns, so keeping laptops, TVs, and phones away before bedtime may help big time.  

In our experience providing personalized assisted living for seniors near me, we’ve also found that the following may work for you too: 

  • Observe a strict sleep schedule: From weekdays through weekends and even when you hit the road, establishing consistency in your sleep schedule can improve sleep quality. 
  • Halt the evening caffeine: Caffeine blocks the sleep pressure that the body exerts to send us to bed. Alleviating caffeine intake in the evening may work wonders. To be on the safe side, you could also try cutting out the caffeine right from the afternoon
  • Minimize later afternoon naps: Naps next to bedtime may be counterproductive as they can throw your loved ones sleeping cycles off
  • Cut back on alcohol: Most seniors rely on alcohol to put them to sleep. However, this works for a short time and may wear off mid-sleep
  • Switch your diet plan: The American Academy of Sleep cautions against spicy, acidic, and heavy meals which can pack too much of a punch on a senior’s digestive system. Instead, the AASM recommends light snacks or meals leading up to bedtime. 
  • Craft an exercise routine: These are not only great for alleviating stress and improving mood but work well to improve daytime activities and reduce sleep onset. 

Try these out and let us know how it turns out. There are plenty more advice and guidelines where these tips came from, so drop us an email and our senior community team will get back to you.  

Possible treatment options for sleep problems from dementia

Restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea, to name a few, may just be behind your loved one’s sleep problems. Hence, you’d want to get your elderly checked for underlying conditions so that you can have these treated or managed. 

Other treatment avenues you could explore include: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT, commonly known as talk therapy, may also be effective at getting to the root of the matter and is particularly helpful if the issue is all in the mind. While questions are often raised about CBT, a University of Michigan study proved its worth, substantiating that it helps seniors with insomnia to reduce mid-sleep waking up, improve the ease of falling asleep, and increase sleep duration.
  • Sleep medication: This doesn’t mean buying sleeping pills over the counter. Far from it, we recommend getting a doctor’s professional diagnosis and prescription for sleep medication depending on the cause of the sleep problem. Of course, this is only a short-term solution to rely on as you get your routine going
  • Memory care services:  For a more long-term and balanced approach, this is the way to go. A good senior care service that has extensive experience looking after dementia seniors can come to your rescue with the right physical and mental wellness programs to bolster sleep quality. Not forgetting the right diet plans as well. 
  • Light therapy: As guided by your doctor, light therapy can help reset your body clock, i.e. the body’s natural timing which dictates when it’s time to sleep or wake up. The consistent and strategic use of light therapy can improve various aspects of sleep. 

Of course, there are many other ways you could go about this, depending as well on your elderly’s sundowning severity and other unique needs. If you remain on the fence about the best sleep treatment option for your elderly loved one with dementia, reach out to our memory care senior assisted living center for more recommendations. 

Where assisted living centers come in

When poor sleep becomes a pattern, this can speed up the symptoms of dementia, which makes it crucial that you deal with these problems ASAP. However, caring for a sleep-disturbed loved one with dementia can be nerve-wracking especially when you’re juggling a job and are short on expertise. If responsibilities take up much of your day and you don’t have enough time or know-how to provide proper care, consider getting help from a provider of respite care for seniors near me. Do you know someone who might benefit from this post? Sharing is caring. 

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