Sleep problems are common among older adults, but especially among those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. A lack of sufficient rest can lead to irritability, anxiety, daytime drowsiness, disorientation, and additional behavioral issues that can create stress for both senior loved ones and their caregivers.
Follow these tips and consult a physician to help your loved one get a better night’s sleep.
- Discuss the issue with a physician.
Although sleep problems are common among adults with Alzheimer’s, other underlying issues can make them worse. It is a good idea to consult with your loved one’s primary care provider to determine whether the sleep disturbances are caused by something that can be managed, such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or depression.
Some medications may also cause sleep disturbances. If this is the case, you may want to ask the provider about changing medications or ask if your loved one can take it at a different time of day.
- Keep a consistent bedtime.
Consistency and routine are important for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and that applies to bedtime as well. Caregivers can help their loved ones go to bed at the same time every evening. This may also include regular waking times and meal times.
- Encourage exercise.
Experts frequently recommend exercise as a way to improve sleep without medication. It is best to do this earlier in the day, as exercising a few hours before bedtime can disrupt the sleep cycle.
The best type of exercise will vary depending on your loved one’s physical health and the severity of their symptoms. Walks around the block, simple stretches, fitness video games, or water aerobics are a few possibilities.
- Get natural daylight.
Bright, natural daylight in the morning and early afternoon often helps people achieve a normal sleep/wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. For seniors in less sunny climates, or during the winter, a light therapy box may help simulate daylight.
Make sure your loved one experiences plenty of natural light soon after waking up and throughout the day. In the early evening, dim the lights. It may be a good idea to limit screen time as well—the brightness can interfere with the sleep cycle.
- Make the evenings relaxing.
Caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s may want to plan more physically taxing activities, such as doctor appointments or family visits, for earlier in the day. This can help keep your senior loved one from becoming overly tired and agitated later in the day which can make it more difficult for them to sleep.
For the same reasons, seniors with Alzheimer’s should avoid consuming large meals, alcohol, caffeine, and other stimulants too close to bedtime.
While sleep disturbances are common in seniors with Alzheimer’s, there are ways to manage them. These tips can help seniors and their caregivers establish good habits that promote restful sleep.
Quality Care for Seniors With Dementia
Heritage Senior Communities provides quality care for seniors across Michigan, including specialized dementia care for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Contact us today with questions or to schedule a tour.