Sleep issues are a common problem for people living with dementia. It is especially challenging in the later stages of the disease, and frequently affects the caregiver’s sleep as well.
There are many reasons dementia causes a lack of sleep. Your loved one’s body clock may be out of synch. They may be experiencing anxiety or depression. They could also sleep a lot during the day and not feel fatigued at night. As a result, they have difficulty falling asleep. They may wake up frequently and then have a hard time getting back to sleep. Sleep issues can lead to your loved one leaving the bed and drifting around the house or wandering outside.
The first thing to do is make sure your loved one’s doctor is aware of the sleep issues. The doctor may be able to provide helpful sleep protocol. If necessary, medication may be prescribed to enable your loved one to relax and get more sleep.
Keeping to a schedule can help both sleep and other dementia-related challenges. Maintain regular times for meals, bedtime, and waking up. When your loved one gets up, make sure he or she is exposed to sunlight to initiate their circadian rhythm. Also, when possible, help your loved one engage in exercise by walking or assisting with light chores.
Certain activities may be conducive to helping your loved feel more secure and ready to sleep. For example, listening to soft music or hearing a story can help them wind down before heading to bed. Set the temperature at a comfortable level. Be aware that your loved one may prefer a temperature warmer or colder than normal. Use a space heater or fan in their room if you need a different climate from the rest of the home.
If your loved one gets up in the middle of the night and wanders, gently guide them back to bed. Stay in the room until they fall asleep. Make sure medications and potentially harmful objects are out of reach and use nightlights throughout the house.
If your loved one is your spouse, be comfortable with the fact that your role has changed to caregiver. There may come a time when you need to sleep in a separate room. Try not to feel guilt or shame when this happens as it’s a normal part of the dementia caregiving cycle. You need a good night’s sleep so you can continue to look after your spouse.
Dealing with sleep issues can be frustrating and depleting. It’s not always easy to ask for help, but you do not have to do this alone. Please contact us and utilize Alzheimer’s Project services if you need support. We offer counseling, support groups, respite care, and educational courses. Call (850) 386-2778 to learn more!