Feb 19, 2018

What can you do? 6 Ways to Solve Problems with Sleep

Statistics indicate as many as 24 percent of Alzheimer's patients wake up caregivers at night and have trouble sleeping.

Statistics indicate as many as 24 percent of Alzheimer's patients wake up caregivers at night.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Recently I received several emails about sleeping problems. Specifically, about Alzheimer's patients staying up at night, or Alzheimer's patients waking up the caregiver at night.

Sleep Medications for Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients

Statistics indicate as many as 24 percent of Alzheimer's patients wake up caregivers at night.
Lack of sleep on the part of the dementia caregiver or their loved one is worrisome because sleep deprivation can lead to depression. One thing for certain, if the Alzheimer's caregiver does not get a good night's sleep they are likely to be less effective, have less patience, less stamina, and are likely to become moody themselves.

The first thing that always comes to my mind when there is a problem is to make some changes.

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For example, the importance of bright light, the amount of light in the bedroom at night, changing the configuration of the bedroom, medications, exercise, routine, napping and daytime sleeping.

1. The Importance of Bright Light

There is scientific evidence that being exposed to bright light (especially in the morning) can help improve sleep at night.

I continue to believe the fact that I got my mother into bright light each and every day helped her overall mood, and as a result helped her sleep better at night. It often comes down to mood, pattern, and level of security (feeling secure in the environment).

2. The Amount of Light in the Bedroom (and noise)

The amount of light in the bedroom or noise can be issues. I bought heavier curtains to make the room darker than dark. I bought a very dim night light and put it on the inside wall of the bathroom right next to the door. So it pointed the way to the bathroom.

Learn More - 8 Dementia Care Tips When Patient Has Problems Sleeping

3. Reconfigure the Furniture in the Bedroom

I moved my mom to a smaller bedroom that also has a bathroom right in it. I put in one bedroom with a lamp so my mom would sleep on that side of the bed. The side that was close to the bathroom. When she stepped out of the bed she had about 8 feet to go to the bathroom door. The small light basically created a run way to the bathroom; however, she could not see it while sleeping in the bed.

4. Medications and Sleep

On this one we got lucky. My mother was having high blood pressure and headaches in the morning for several weeks. After several false starts our doctor decided to try clonidine. Because the drug causes drowsiness he told me to give it to her right before bed. This really worked.

In the past caregivers have told me that Lunesta, Sonata and Ambien have worked for them. I never tried any of these drugs with my mom.

I learned from the Alzheimer's Action Plan that some medications used to treat Alzheimer's and depression may occasionally cause insomnia, nocturnal delusions, or vivid dreams. Some doctors answer these problems by blaming the Alzheimer's and not the medication they are prescribing. Be wary of this.

It is always a good idea to ask the doctor why he is prescribing a particular medication? If he knows if it conflicts with Alzheimer's or dementia medication; or, has symptoms different than expected when mixed with Alzheimer's medications?

5. Physical Exercise and the Importance of Routine

I did take my mom to the gym 5 days a week. Her attitude, behavior, and look on her face changed for the positive every single time. She actually started smiling after the exercise after a while, stood up straighter, and walked a bit faster and with more confidence.

You can never underestimate the importance of the daily routine in effective caregiving. We did have a carefully designed daily routine. We also had a specific routine at bedtime. Bathroom, pajamas, robe, ice cream in the kitchen and off to bed. It took a bit to get the pattern established. Sometimes you just have to be patient. Don't give up easily. Patterns work with dementia patients.

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6. Limit Daytime Sleep

This one should seem obvious. If you are letting your loved one sleep or nap all day long you very likely have the sleep problem. Short naps are okay but should be taken on the sofa or in a recliner.

The only answer to this is bright light (get out), more socialization, and activities for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.

Learn More About How to Deal with Problems Associated with Alzheimer's disease

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5 Tips, How to get an Alzheimer's Patient to Shower

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Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room