1 Aug 2016

How To Manage Sleep Problems In Dementia

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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.

Remedying Sleep Problems In Dementia

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.

  • Getting More Natural Outdoor Sunlight
    Increasing exposure to natural, outdoor sunlight so that total exposure is at least an hour every day will help with regulating circadian rhythms. If this is not possible, bright light therapy, which provides indoor light via a special lamp, has also proven to be effective.
  • Waking Up and Going to Bed At the Same Time
    Not only is a regular routine important for the mental stability of those with dementia, but it is also beneficial to maintain a regular sleep routine. This means ensuring that your patient wakes up and goes to sleep around the same time every day. Sometimes, setting an alarm can be a helpful reminder. However, if both waking and bedtime are erratic, it is more beneficial to begin focusing on waking up at the same time first.
  • Work on Rituals Before Bed
    Establishing rituals before bed, such as turning off lights and making the room quiet, can help to signal to the body that it is time for sleep.
  • Increasing Activity Levels During the Day
    Encouraging your patient to get more physical activity via a walk, for example, can also be beneficial for promoting sleep.

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.

C-Care Health Services offer a variety of affordable, high-quality and personalized services, including dementia care. You will feel at peace knowing your loved ones are given the best possible care. Contact us today.

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