Written by MindMate Staff
Sleep can be a difficult topic for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and other forms of Dementia. The condition often has a disruptive effect on sleep patterns and quality. For patients, carer and loved-ones alike, it's important to understand how and why sleep is affected, to build understanding and ensure that care and wellbeing can be optimised.
Some patients with AD may sleep significantly longer and more frequently than normal, especially in the early stages of their condition, and this can lead to disorientation when they wake up. As the disease progresses to more advanced stages, however, patients may sleep more during the day and be awake for large parts of the night. They are also less likely to sleep for long periods. Alzheimer’s interrupts the body’s ‘Circadian rhythms’, the daily cycle of sleep, wakefulness, metabolism and body temperature. Because of this, a person with Alzheimer's will often doze intermittently throughout the day, rather than sleeping for one long stint at night time. They may also become restless and more easily agitated as a result, especially late in the day. These evening episodes of agitation in Alzheimer’s patients are often referred to as ‘sundowning’.
If sleeplessness becomes a serious issue for the person, it is best to seek the advice of a doctor who can prescribe a medical treatment to ease the unwanted symptoms. However, for more mild cases, there are several things that can be done to help minimise sleep disruption for the patient.
Here are a few tips for maximising sleep for people with Alzheimer’s: