Sleep & Dementia

Sleep & Dementia

Thursday 9th September 2021

Sleep and dementia.

Did you know a good night's sleep slows cognitive decline, prevents falls and injuries, improves mood and helps balance the sleep-wake cycle?

So, with 7 out of 10 people living with dementia experiencing problems sleeping caused by the changes to the brain, it's no wonder it becomes a vicious cycle - dementia worsens sleep and poor sleep worsens dementia.

How to spot the signs your loved one may not be sleeping...
- Excessive daytime sleeping
- Increased confusion or trouble finding the right words
- Falling out of bed at night
- Being unusually aggressive
- Being awake and active during the night.

Here's our top 5 tips to help improve sleep for your loved one with dementia:

1. Consider the lighting - our bodies have a built-in sleep-wake-cycle determined by daylight and darkness. So, something as simple as ensuring the curtains let in as much daylight as possible during the daytime and then are drawn at night will indicate it's time to sleep. Leaving a slight gap in the bedroom curtains to allow a little daylight in will often help wake your loved one naturally. There are daylight lamps available that get brighter over 30 mins to simulate sunrise to make waking up easier, which are especially useful during the dark winter months.
2. Keep active and do at least 30 minutes exercise per day - going for a walk or simply helping with chores around the home can increase your loved one's sleep by up to 32%, not only that, but they are less likely to wake up so frequently during the night.
3. Ensure physical needs are met before going to be* - have they gone to the bathroom? Brushed their teeth? Is the temperature comfortable? Could their PJ's/nightwear be uncomfortable - create a bedtime routine and keep to this so your loved one knows it's time for bed.
4. Play relaxing music before and during bedtime - music has been shown to increase deep sleep, it can help relax the muscles and lower blood pressure. Focus on finding something low and slow without lyrics, this could be music, nature sounds or just static white noise. Be aware that whilst some of us like to listen to audiobooks or the tv as we fall asleep, for someone with dementia listening to a voice in the dark could be scary.
5. Relax using aromatherapy and hand rubs - research shows that breathing in certain essential oils such as lavender, sweet orange and cedarwood help people with dementia to have longer, uninterrupted periods of sleep throughout the night. There are various options available such as pillow sprays, diffusers or room plug ins. Alternatively, a relaxing hand and arm massage using aromatherapy lotions can help to relax your loved one, meaning they wake up fewer times during the night.

When your loved one sleeps better you will sleep better too.

Tina x