Sleeping with dementia

As age and dementia progress, sleep problems can become more prevalent. Be on the alert for changes in sleep patterns that result from shifts in your loved one’s brain. You may notice your loved one is restless, may shout out in his/her sleep, or may wander. In later stages, a person living with dementia may lie awake a good portion of the night and sleep or doze during the day. Change can stem from a variety of causes ranging from health issues requiring a physician’s attention, to reaction to medication, or conversely indicate a need for medication to assist in the sleep process.

Of course, it makes sense to try the non-drug treatments first:

  • Establish a regular routine for meals and exercise (but no exercise within four hours of bedtime)
  • Make sure the bedroom is comfortable and use the bedroom only for sleep
  • If s/he wakes up, discourage TV during the period of wakefulness.
  • Morning sun can help
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
  • Treat any pain
  • If your loved one is taking a cholinesterase inhibitor, do not give it before bed

Talk to a physician if the non-drug treatments do not solve the problem, but the experts suggest, “Begin low and go slow.”