It is important to recognize that sleep problems are very common in those with dementia. This is not abnormal. Unfortunately, however, sleep problems in those with dementia can further aggravate their mental state, which in turn, burdens their caregivers. While it may take some effort to alter the sleep patterns of those with dementia, the good news is that it is possible.
What Causes Sleep Problems In Those with Dementia?
The contributing factors of sleep problems in those with dementia are considered “multifactorial,” meaning that there may be several underlying causes. In the case of dementia, this could include brain deterioration, which causes individuals to experience less deep sleep and spend more time awake. Those with dementia can also experience problems when it comes to their body regulating their circadian rhythm; some types of dementia are also associated with REM sleep behaviour disorder.
Moreover, those with dementia are also more vulnerable to the sleep-related changes that occur as a natural progression of aging. This information is important because the underlying contributing factors will be used to guide the doctor as to the appropriate treatment.
How To Manage Sleep Problems in Dementia:
There are various approaches that every caregiver can implement regardless of the underlying cause. In fact, some of these recommendations are very similar to those that would be recommended for just about anyone experiencing sleep problems.
Is Sleep Medication Helpful?
Keep in mind that sleeping medication is not advised for those with dementia as it can negatively impact their cognitive abilities while increasing the risk of falling. That being said, if the above techniques have failed, alternative options, like melatonin, a hormone, may be considered in some cases. However, alternative treatments are still very risky and generally not advised. Any change to your patient’s medications should always be discussed with your doctor first.
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