Alzheimer’s and Sleep: Common Questions

By May 11, 2018My Blogs
  1. Does Alzheimer’s cause sleep problems? Yes
    “As Alzheimer’s progresses, a person’s circadian rhythms tend to become desynchronized. They may become prone to dozing intermittently throughout the day, then experience difficulty sleeping at night,” says Emerson Wickwire, Ph. D., Sleep Medicine Program Director at Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Associates in Columbia, MD.
  2. What time of day is “sundowning” common” 

If your loved one is sundowning, they may become restless, pace around, shadow you, or even wander off. These behaviors typically start to occur sometime between 3:00 in the afternoon and 7:00 in the evening and may continue throughout the night, according to Bradley.

  1. Is it okay to let someone with Alzheimer’s sleep all day?
    Try to keep a loved one engaged and active during the day. It doesn’t have to be anything special: adult day care activities (https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/alzheimers-adult-day-care-activities-139134.htm), physical exercise, special outings, even simple errands can keep your elderly loved one engaged and active. If your loved one absolutely needs to rest schedule 20-30 minute naps during the day.
  2. How can I help a loved one with Alzheimer’s sleep through the night?
    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) (https://www.nih.gov/) urges caregivers to use other non-medical interventions, such as sticking to a routine and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, to reduce sleep problems in people with Alzheimer’s. Drawing the blinds to block out nighttime darkness, making sure a loved one gets some sun exposure during the day, and crafting a sleep-inducing bedroom environment (proper temperature, comfortable bedding), are additional recommendations for getting a person with Alzheimer’s to sleep sounder. If your loved one does wake up in the middle of the night, don’t encourage them to try and go back to sleep. Bradley says it’s better to get them started on a task, such as folding laundry, or reading a book, rather than trying to get them to stay in bed once they’re awake.

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