Sleeping problems are all too common in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s – and inevitably for their carers and loved ones, too. Dementia and sleep problems are often inextricably linked since there are many factors in dementia that affect sleep. And sleeping problems can be a real challenge for a carer and for the patient themselves. Here are some simple strategies for getting a better night’s sleep.
Increase Exposure to Light in the Morning
Exposure to light in the morning can help to set the body clock correctly, minimising the desire for afternoon naps and it can also help to prevent insomnia. If you can get out early in the day, do so. A short walk in the morning can make a big difference.
Prevent Sleep Anxiety
Live in carers may be worried that they will not hear when a relative or patient gets up in the night. They may fall on the way to the bathroom or even try to leave the house. This results in anxiety and sleep problems for the carer. It may be helpful to install an alarm that alerts the carer when the patient leaves the bed, which can help carers sleep more easily.
Stick to a Routine
Routine is important when it comes to sleep. Routine helps to reduce symptoms like anxiety and restlessness and helps a patient feel more secure and safe. They are better able to relax and consequently usually sleep better.
Keep the Lights Low at Night
Often dementia and sufferers of Alzheimer’s need a little extra help with signalling it is time to go to sleep. It helps when you use low level lighting in the evening when it is time to go to bed. Keep bright lights, such as those in the kitchen, turned off. Consider installing blackout blinds if there is a lot of light in the summer in the bedroom. Install night lights so they can see their way to the bathroom.
Keep the Bed Warm and the Room Cool
Make some changes to the bedroom so that it is cool and peaceful. It is a good idea to have warm covers on the bed and a cool room as this encourages them to stay beneath the covers. The bedroom should also be tidy, uncluttered, and simply furnished to remove distractions and stress.
Keep Night Time Hunger at Bay
Add a small snack to the routine an hour or so before bed but make sure it is light and high in serotonin-boosting nutrients. Good bedtime foods include bananas, cashew nuts, peanut butter, and wholegrain crackers. Make sure that patients are well-hydrated but do not overload on water as this can make bathroom necessities more urgent at night.