October 5, 2021


Contact Continuum for help managing sleep issues with Alzheimer’s.

If it feels like a loved one with Alzheimer’s has completely rewritten the rules on how and when to sleep, you are not dreaming. For reasons that are not yet completely understood, many people with dementia experience changes to their circadian rhythm, resulting in sleepless nights and drowsy days.

The development of the disease is one contributing factor adding to the sleep issues with Alzheimer’s. Damage to brain cells causes increased weakness, making daily tasks and activities exhausting. Medication side effects from regularly-prescribed dementia treatments can further exacerbate the problem.

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Senior Loved One with Dementia

Decreased sleep quality in Alzheimer’s can cause an increase in delusions and restlessness and may result in serious safety concerns, such as the potential for a loved one to wander away and become injured or lost. Not only that, but a senior loved one who is sleepy throughout the day will also be less likely to want to participate in healthy activities such as spending time outdoors and exercising.

And, for a very busy family caregiver who also needs rest, it can be quite difficult to fulfill every one of the person’s care needs during the day and throughout the night as well.

Tips on How to Help

Try these guidelines for a senior whose sleep patterns are interrupted:

  • Talk to the physician for a review of medications. Changing the dosage timing every day might be all it takes to help make a difference.
  • Adhere to a routine like waking up and going to bed at the same time each day. Limit naps, caffeine, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Include bedtime activities which are relaxing, for example, a warm bath, reading, turning off the TV, and playing quiet, calming music.
  • If wandering is a problem, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you when the senior gets up so that you can help.
  • Try placing a clock that differentiates between nighttime and daytime near the senior’s bed.

You might want to encourage a senior loved one to test sleeping on their side as opposed to the back or stomach as well. Recent research identified a possible link between side sleeping and much more successful clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Understand that this research study was conducted on laboratory animals and it is not clear yet if the results carry over to humans.

Continuum is available to help at home in St. Charles and the nearby areas as well, with overnight caregivers who are awake and alert, looking after the senior’s needs throughout the night, so you can get the rest you need. Our care providers are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to taking care of the unique care needs of those with Alzheimer’s. Contact us online, or call us at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 to learn more about our specialized in-home Alzheimer’s care services.