Supporting Healthy Sleep Habits for People with Dementia
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe habits and practices that can lead to healthy sleep patterns—something that people with dementia often struggle with, as the changes in the brain that cause dementia can also affect a person’s sleep cycles.
Improving sleep for a person with dementia is important, because better sleep can help decrease stress for patients and caregivers alike, as well as potentially slow cognitive decline.
Andrea Korsunsky, Director of Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care, suggests trying these tips to support healthy sleep hygiene for your loved one with dementia.
- Identify patterns by starting a sleep log. Monitor the person’s sleep activity for 3 – 5 days, including naps. Then observe: what is waking them up? Do they need the restroom? Consider ways to make the restroom routine easier, such as a bedside commode. If there’s a concern about possible medical conditions, discuss with their doctor. Note: Hydration is important—so it isn’t a good idea to eliminate or limit fluid intake in order to solve the bathroom issue.
If your loved one is easily awakened by noise, try a sound machine or ear plugs to minimize disturbance. Also think about their general physical comfort. Adjust the room temperature as necessary. If they’re in pain, try repositioning pillows or blankets, and consider discussing pain management options with the doctor.
- Determine whether this sleep pattern is truly a problem. A sleep pattern is problematic if the person is sleeping so much that they are missing meals, is unable to engage in meaningful activities, or is awake all night and not able to be independent. On the other hand, your loved one’s sleep pattern may not be problematic if they are napping throughout the day, but waking easily for meals, conversation, and activities. What matters most is if they’re rested and comfortable. Remember, it’s natural to sleep a little more as we age.
- Work on creating a sleep routine. Help your loved one get ready for bed at the same time every evening. Dim the lights 30 – 45 minutes before going to bed, and avoid the use of electronics close to bedtime: Bright screens send signals to the brain that it’s time to be awake! Introduce calming sounds and breathing exercises to set the body up for restful sleep.
Remember that it takes time to train the body. Stick with a consistent schedule for a few weeks to make a real, lasting change.
If you need additional assistance, Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care provides specialize in-home support for people experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, as well as practical and emotional support for their families.