People with dementia can often have trouble sleeping or suffer from a disturbed sleeping pattern, which can impact on them, their day and the people around them. Some people with dementia may even sleep during the day and be unable to get to sleep at night or they might wake in the night and feel disorientated or try to get up, get dressed and walk around.
If you care for or have an elderly relative, friend or neighbour who has trouble sleeping or has a disturbed sleeping pattern, there are some tricks you can try to help improve their sleep.
Having a stimulating routine in place for the day time can really help. Getting some daylight in the morning and early evening can regulate the body clock of someone with dementia, as they can often get day and night time mixed up. You could combine getting some daylight with a gentle walk, which is great exercise. Activities throughout the day will wear them out, leading to a better night’s sleep.
Throughout the day make sure the person you’re caring for is staying well hydrated as dehydration in people with dementia can cause confusion and illnesses, however, you should limit the amount of drinks they have in the few hours leading up to bed time as trips to the bathroom can disturb sleep patterns.
As evening approaches, it’s a good idea to prepare the person you’re looking after for sleep, so make sure they begin to rest and relax and are in a calm mood. A relaxing soak in the bath with some essential oils is a great help.
You should focus on easy conversation in the evenings and light listening/watching on the TV or radio.
The bedroom a person with dementia sleeps in is very important too. The curtains should be heavy enough to block out light and the temperature should be comfortable, not too hot or too cold.
Make sure their bedside table has a night light or lamp on it and maybe a favourite photograph, ornament or clock so they can see something familiar if they do wake. Daytime clothes should be put out of sight and try to cover mirrors to avoid confusion.
These tips are just some of the things our carers have found to help when looking after our service users and we hope that sharing them with you will help too. However, there isn’t a definitive list for solving sleeplessness and waking in the night and disturbed sleep patterns are a common symptom of dementia, so your loved-one, friend or neighbour won’t have a perfect night’s sleep every night.
If they do wake, it’s important to make sure they’re comfortable and safe during this time. Try having a chair with comfy cushions in the room and books/photograph albums for them to peruse while they’re awake. You could also install a stairgate to help avoid any nasty accidents or install a bed monitor to alert you to them leaving the bed.
If you’re a carer yourself, you should also be getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some of our top tips to help.