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Decreasing Sleep Disturbances and Insomnia

Often times someone who has memory impairment may develop interrupted sleep and insomnia. As they are confused about the time of day, they may get up and get dressed with the intention of going to work or running some other errand. Waking up in the darkness and with the disorientation that naturally occurs at night is a fall risk, even if you do not have dementia. Furthermore, this chronic waking can also negatively impact their caregiver who has to get up with them and also lose sleep.

The first step when sleep problems arise in someone with dementia is to take them to their doctor for a checkup and see if there is a medical cause for their loss of sleep.

Establish a routine that sets the stage for bedtime to minimize confusion. One part of the routine should be a trip to the bathroom before bed so that they are not awakened by the need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. The bedtime routine should be the same every night as they undress and get comfortable, wash their face and hands with warm water, brush their teeth and maybe even listen to soft music with the lights dimmed.

Make choices during the day that will lead to a good night’s sleep. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sugar and chocolate late in the day. Minimize naps by gently waking the person and offering them a snack or to ask them to help with a chore. Exercise during the day can also expend energy, so take a walk or do chores like sweeping or dusting with your loved one to tire them out.

Follow the normal routines and habits of the person who has dementia as much as possible.