Sleep problems can occur at any age. However, they are even more likely to happen as we age, and dementia can compound not only the possibility of sleep problems, but also the affects of sleep deprivation. Caregivers need to be aware that they can, along with a senior with dementia, become irritable and emotionally unstable when they don’t get enough sleep.
What are some of the main causes behind sleep problems?
- As we age, we become more susceptible to sleep-related disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and other sleep breathing disorders.
- Certain medical conditions can affect sleep such as arthritis, bladder problems, emotional problems, heart and lung issues, and stomach problems like GERD. Alcohol and medication side effects can also cause sleep problems.
- Beginning in mid-life, we lose about a half an hour of quality sleep every decade. Our sleep becomes more fragmented and it’s easier to wake and stay awake due to other issues.
- Dementia and other degenerative diseases change a person’s sleep cycle.
Here are some of the ways that a person with dementia (and their caregiver) can improve their sleep cycle:
- Light therapy has been proven to improve sleep. Whether it’s natural daytime lighting by going outside and being in the sun for at least an hour every day, or via a light therapy lamp, bright light will help keep the circadian cycle in order, and will improve nighttime sleep.
- Walking throughout the day, or some other form of physical exercise, will create a more natural need for sleep.
- Keep the nighttime environment peaceful, dark, and quiet.
- Maintain a regular routine and be consistent with it. Morning wake-ups and evening tuck-ins should be at the same time every day so the body gets in tune with this schedule and comes to depend on it.
There have been many medications prescribed to people with dementia who suffer from sleep problems in an effort to help them sleep more soundly. Some of these include sedatives, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills, and even antipsychotics and over-the-counter sleep aids. Unfortunately, most all of these will have some ill-effect on the senior with dementia, and should be monitored closely through caregivers and doctors. Melatonin and Trazodone tend to be milder with less possibility of side effects, so talk to your doctor about them.
If you live in the Richmond VA area and are interested in finding out about in-home caregivers in Southside Richmond, or about options for assisted living facilities in Midlothian VA, contact the Always Best Care Richmond office at 804-912-5688 to set up a free consultation through a professional Care Coordinator.