man reading newspaperAccording to the Mayo Clinic, sleep disturbances may affect up to 25 percent of people with mild to moderate dementia and 50 percent with severe dementia. This group of symptoms affect memory, language, problem solving skills and social abilities.

As these cognitive functions continue to deteriorate, sleeping patterns also worsen with disease progression. Changes in the brain can influence a senior’s circadian rhythm, the processes our bodies go through in a 24-hour cycle. This includes physical, mental and behavioral changes.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease might want to sleep during the day, have trouble falling asleep at night or become agitated when the sun sets, a condition called sundowning.

Without the proper amount of sleep, seniors with dementia may experience increased irritation and confusion throughout the day. If you or a loved one is suffering from one of these conditions, here are a few ways you can help improve sleeping patterns.

Create A Peaceful Environment

Sleeping comfortably can be much easier when you are relaxed. To create a more peaceful environment, consider playing white noise or adjusting the temperature. Scientists suggest that a cooler room can improve sleep quality because our body temperature naturally drops at night. As metabolic rate slows down, we use less energy during sleep.

Before bed, an hour of light reading, knitting or another calming activity can prepare your mind for sleep. Avoid watching television or using an electronic device, as the light can affect your brain and its production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep.

Proper lighting can reduce sleep disturbances for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s. When a room is too dark, it may cause them to get confused, paranoid or agitated. Keep a lamp on dim or install nightlights, so your loved one can familiarize with his or her surroundings.

Encourage Physical Activity

There are many physical activities seniors can do to help improve sleep patterns, including low-impact walks, using a stationary bike or completing easy tasks around the house. These activities should be completed during the daytime, as extreme tiredness during the evening can increase feelings of agitation.

At Avon Health Center, we offer a variety of therapeutic recreation activities that can help promote exercise and physical activity for seniors. Our Recreation Department is happy to accommodate the needs and interests of residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Address Chronic Pain

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 60 percent of seniors with dementia have three or more other chronic health issues. If your loved one has apnea, restless legs syndrome or another condition contributing to sleep disturbances, seek appropriate medical treatment.

Limit Naps

Avoiding daytime naps can make a big difference in your quality of sleep at night. Naps can make trying to fall asleep later in the evening more difficult for seniors with dementia. Establishing a daily routine can make it easier to get through sleepy moments.

Instead of lounging during the day, encourage your loved one to participate in a favorite hobby. Crafts, reading, baking and gardening are all great ways to pass the time, without expending too much energy.

Avoid Stimulants

To prevent restlessness, seniors with Alzheimer’s disease should avoid stimulants like coffee, alcohol or nicotine. Consumption during the day can make falling asleep at night even more difficult. It can also cause disturbances throughout the night and may prevent seniors from entering a stage of deep sleep.
For more information on how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, contact the professionals at Avon Health Center today.