How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less motivated to do things that we normally enjoy. It can take all our energy just to get through the day but getting to sleep can be just as challenging. When we go through grief, it’s common to also experience newfound insomnia, or to feel exhausted even if you’re getting enough sleep. However, understanding the relationship between grief and sleep can help you improve the quality of your sleep to take the first step towards feeling better.

What Is Grief?

Grief, or bereavement, is the distressing experience you go through after losing a loved one. This can be your wife or husband, or any family member, a friend, a pet, or anyone else you know. Losing someone close to you can be emotionally devastating, with other intense emotional and physical symptoms. These can include low energy, anxiety, headaches, digestive issues, and sleep problems. You can also experience disruptions to other parts of your daily life; you could be struggling with feelings of anxiety and depression, while things you’d normally do during the day can seem impossible. You could also find it difficult to concentrate, and you may struggle with daytime fatigue.1

There is no set time for how long anyone will take to feel better as each loss is personal. However, when symptoms last for more than six months, it’s diagnosed as Complicated Grief (CG). If you have CG, you could be experiencing symptoms of grief and depression, such as feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of self-harm, difficulty going about your everyday life, and even feelings of guilt.2

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

It’s difficult to get a good sleep while grieving, especially in the days immediately after the loss. If you’re grieving, you may have distressing thoughts about your loved one, such as regrets, worries, anxieties, or sadness about your time together. It can also be hard if your loved one has passed away unexpectedly or in violent circumstances. Also, if you shared the bed with your loved one, it can be especially difficult to sleep without them.

Grief can develop into anxiety, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Each of these conditions can negatively affect your sleep, with one quarter of those who have lost a spouse developing clinical depression or anxiety within the first year.3 You can read more about these conditions in our articles, ‘Sleeping with Anxiety’, ‘Sleeping with Depression’, and ‘PTSD and Sleep’.

Insomnia

Grief is traumatic enough on its own and can lead to disruptive physical symptoms for weeks or even months. One of these symptoms is insomnia, a sleeping disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up. As you are consumed by thoughts of your loved one, your ability to fall asleep has been disrupted. Read more about insomnia, and how to help ease the symptoms, in our topic, ‘Insomnia’.

Sleep Deprivation

You may also find that you wake up frequently during the night, and you could wake up after dreaming about your loved one. This is because your brain is trying to process the loss and your emotions. When you’re grieving, you don’t get the restful sleep that you need on a regular basis. This can make you sleep deprived, which worsens the intensity of many of the symptoms of grief. When you’re sleep deprived, everyday life can seem even more challenging. On a cognitive level, sleep deprivation affects how the brain processes memories and makes sound judgements, so you become more forgetful and more likely to behave rashly and make poor decisions. You’ll also have a harder time balancing your mood when you’re sleep deprived, and you’re more prone to stress, anxiety, and low moods. Sleep deprivation also affects you physically, as your immune system is compromised. This makes you more likely to get sick, which may only add to poor sleep quality.4

10 Ways to Sleep Better with Grief

Grief is a natural process, and something that you have to go through before you begin to feel better. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything to help yourself. Taking control of your sleep will help you to stay healthy, and it’s a first step towards feeling better.

1) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is an effective form of therapeutic treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Studies have found that people with Complicated Grief thought CBT helped to improve symptoms of insomnia and improved their sleep.5 During CBT, you work with a therapist to recognise your negative thoughts and behaviours that are making you feel worse, heightening anxiety, and encouraging insomnia. You’ll learn how to replace these thoughts and behaviours with healthier ones, which will help you sleep. Talk to your doctor about CBT to find out if it’s right for you.

2) Follow A Regular Sleep Schedule

Going to bed at the same time each night, and waking up the same time every morning, is a great way to help yourself feel in control. It’ll also encourage a steady sleeping pattern, which will reduce symptoms of insomnia and daytime fatigue. Avoid naps during the day but, if you’re absolutely exhausted, limit your naps to 20 – 30 minutes. This short nap will prevent you from falling into a deep sleep, but it’s enough to make you feel refreshed.

3) Spend Time With Friends And Family

While you’re grieving, it’s important that you spend time with people who love and care about you so that you don’t feel lonely. If you are feeling lonely, invite someone to sleep at your house overnight, or let your pet sleep on your bed.

4) Avoid Alcohol, Drugs, or Sleeping Aids

While they may help you fall asleep initially, many of these substances will actually disrupt your sleep. They can also lead to addiction and permanently change your sleeping pattern, and this can be hard to fix. Sleeping aids should be avoided, but you should discuss this with your doctor.

5) Exercise

It’s not an urban myth – exercise really does make you feel better, both physically and mentally. Exercising also provides a distraction from the pain you’re going through, and you’ll tire your body so that you’ll fall asleep easier at night-time. Make sure that you exercise in the morning or early part of the day. Exercising in the evening will keep you from feeling rested enough to fall asleep. Also, try to exercise in the sunlight for an extra boost to your mood and energy. If you’re struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, or you feel exhausted, exercising can seem like an impossible feat. However, it doesn’t have to be a vigorous workout – a walk will do you as much good as being in the gym. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

6) Eat Well

Like exercise, what you eat affects your mood and sleep, too. Comfort eating and indulging in fatty foods is tempting when you’re grieving but try to eat healthy foods and avoid overly sugary, junky, or fatty foods. Foods that don’t make you feel great emotionally and physically can disrupt your sleep. Try to incorporate rice, pasta, potatoes, and breads into your dinners as carbohydrate-rich foods help people sleep. 6 Other healthy foods that promote sleep include milk, cheese, yoghurt, fish, bananas, tomatoes, and nuts. However, avoid eating heavy meals a couple of hours before you go to bed. You should also limit how much caffeine you have. Drinking coffee during the day will keep you alert when you want to feel sleepy.

7) Have A Relaxing Bedtime Routine

While you’re grieving, having a relaxing bedtime routine helps you fall asleep easier, and it also gives you something to focus on. Having a routine will train your mind to recognise that it’s time to go to bed. When we lose someone close to us, our daily routine is disrupted. Establishing a bedtime routine can give you a sense of control again, bringing a sense of order back into your life. The routine must consist of relaxing activities, like a warm bath and reading for a while before you go to sleep. Be consistent with it every night.

8) Try Journaling

Writing your thoughts and worries down is a great way to relieve the burden of your grief. If you write about what’s bothering you and how you feel, you could feel as if your grief has lessened, even if only slightly. Or you could only write about happy thoughts and memories. Even the action of writing will calm your mind and give you something to focus on.

9) Avoid Electronics At Night

TVs, phones, tablets, and laptops emit a blue light that disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This’ll keep you awake and may stop you from falling into a deep, restful sleep. Don’t look at a screen within one hour of going to bed – instead, fill this time with your bedtime routine.

10) Don’t Stay In Bed If You Can’t Sleep

If you’re still awake about twenty minutes after going to bed, get up and go to another room. Staying in bed will lead to your brain associating your bed with restlessness, and it’ll be even harder to fall asleep. In the other room, do a relaxing activity. Only go back to bed when you’re feeling sleepy. If you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep, don’t stress out – just get up and go to another room again until you feel drowsy enough to go back to sleep.

While these are ideas for how to help yourself sleep better, the best way to help yourself is to visit your doctor. As grief can disrupt your sleep and lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as insomnia and sleep deprivation, it’s important that you let your doctor know how you’re doing. They will consider other ways to help you, such as medication. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be referred to a specialist. Don’t keep your grief hidden – make sure you get the best help possible.

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep...

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities. However,...

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal...

Loneliness and Sleep

We all feel lonely from time to time, but feelings of loneliness are personal. One common description of loneliness is that it’s the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships has not been...

Alcoholism and Sleep

Anyone who has a drink now and again knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. This makes it a great nightcap, right? Well, not really. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll also contribute to poor quality of sleep later....

Sleeping with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition which affects a person’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another without warning. Unlike normal mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, and sometimes longer. While the...

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience. It...

Trauma and Sleep

Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overworked, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline. This makes it hard for the mind and body to relax at the end of...

PTSD and Sleep

A terrifying recurrent dream, drenched in sweat, heart beating fast. Waking up and often being unable to fall asleep again that night. These are the most common disturbances to sleep that someone with PTSD can suffer from. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for...

Autism and Sleep

A good night’s sleep isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s almost impossible for many people with autism. We all know that a poor sleep will make us feel grumpy the next day, and the same is true for people with autism. Whether they can communicate how they’re...

Children with Asperger’s and Sleep Problems

About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and...

Children with ADHD and Sleep Problems

Lack of sleep can be a problem among many children, but especially those with ADHD. Researchers are looking into the links between ADHD and sleep. While the causes of sleep issues for children with ADHD isn’t yet clear, the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep is...

ADHD and Sleep Problems in Adults

Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling...

Sleeping with Depression

Feeling sad now and again is a fundamental part of being human, especially during difficult or trying times. In contrast, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and disinterest in things that were once enjoyed are symptoms of depression. Depression is...

Sleeping with Anxiety

Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the...

Sleeping Disorders in Children

A good night’s sleep is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health – but especially for children. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. However, more than a third of school-aged children may have sleep...

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routines. We need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, to allow healing to take place, and to let our brains process everything we’ve seen and heard during the day. However, with increasingly busy lives,...

7 Tips and Tricks to Get A Good Sleep

There’s nothing worse than waking up at night and not being able to get back to sleep. If this happens on consecutive nights, you can suffer from poor sleep. In a vicious cycle, poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep. Eventually, poor sleep can...

Mindfulness and Sleep

It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice anything. We can get weighed down by work, responsibilities, school, and even thinking about what to have for dinner can be a chore. When we go to bed, our thoughts are still whizzing around, trying to catch up...

How Are Sleep and Mental Health Connected?

Excessive sleepiness can influence your mental health. Failing to get the full seven to nine hours of sleep you need each night can alter your mood, outlook on life, energy levels, motivation, and emotions. The longer you go without the quality...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.1 In a typical sleep cycle, we enter the early stages of sleep and then the deeper stages. Finally, after about ninety minutes, we reach Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. People with narcolepsy go into REM sleep almost immediately – even when they’re awake. This can get in the way of work, school, socialisation, and everyday life, which can be troubling and challenging for anyone who suffers from it. As a sleeping disorder, narcolepsy can be a serious problem as it disrupts your sleep, which is essential for your physical and mental health. However, there are ways for you to help ease the symptoms to make everyday life a bit easier.

What Are the Symptoms of Narcolepsy?

It’s estimated that narcolepsy affects about 30,000 people in the UK. Symptoms can often begin during adolescence, although it’s usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. When someone has narcolepsy, their brain is unable to regulate sleeping and waking patterns normally,2 which can result in:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleep attacks (falling asleep suddenly and without warning)
  • Cataplexy (temporary loss of muscle control – results in weakness and possible collapse, often triggered by strong emotions, such as laughter)
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Excessive dreaming and waking in the night
  • Disrupted sleep due to vivid dreams, breathing problems, or body movements
  • Dream-like hallucinations and paralysis as you’re falling asleep or waking up

If you have narcolepsy, it’s possible that you could also have sleep apnoea, a sleeping disorder where your breathing often pauses while you sleep. Read more about it here.

Narcolepsy does not cause serious or long-term physical health problems. However, as it significantly disrupts your sleep pattern, it can affect your daily life. Also, as you struggle with poor sleep, you may be at risk of developing depression. You can find out more in our article, ‘Sleeping with Depression’.

What Causes Narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is often caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness. A lack of hypocretin is thought to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the cells that produce it or the receptors that allow it to work. However, this does not explain every case of narcolepsy, and the exact cause is still unknown. There are possible triggers that include hormonal changes, major psychological stress, an infection, or medicine used to vaccinate against infections.3

Also, if you’ve got a family history of narcolepsy, then your risk of experiencing it can be 20 – 40 times higher.4

How Can You Help Yourself Sleep Better?

There is no cure for narcolepsy, but making changes to your sleeping habits can help to minimise the effect of narcolepsy on your everyday life.5

Try to nap. Taking frequent, brief naps that are evenly spaced throughout the day is one of the best ways to manage excessive daytime sleepiness6. This can be difficult to manage if you’re at work or school, but your doctor may be able to devise a sleep schedule that’ll help you get into a routine of taking naps.

Keep a bedtime routine. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will help to regulate your sleep pattern, which can help with feelings of tiredness during the day.

Have a relaxing bedtime routine. Having some time each evening before going to bed where you do some relaxing activities will signal to your brain that it’s time to settle for sleep. You could have a warm, soothing bath and then read for a while before going to sleep. Being consistent is important, as your brain needs to learn the routine before it completely accepts it.

Have a good sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your bedroom is free from distractions – this includes the TV, phone, tablet, or laptop. Avoid looking at them for about an hour before you go to sleep, as the blue light that’s emitted from these screens disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This’ll keep you from drifting into a deep sleep, which will make you feel worse during the day. Read more about how technology affects your sleep in our article here.

Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Although the first cup of coffee can make you feel more alert in the morning, drinking it during the day can keep you from sleeping well at night. Similarly, while alcohol can make you feel drowsy, drinking it before you go to bed can keep you from drifting into a deep sleep and you’ll likely wake up during the night.

Don’t exercise close to bedtime. It’s true that exercise helps you sleep well at night but exercising close to going to bed will make it harder to get to sleep. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

Watch what you eat. Avoid heavy, large meals late in the evening.

Remember …

While these are tips for helping to improve your sleeping habits to ease the symptoms of narcolepsy, the best way to help yourself is to visit your doctor. Your doctor may ask you about your sleeping habits and any other symptoms. They could also carry out tests to help rule out any other conditions that could be causing excessive daytime sleepiness, such as sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may want to refer you to a sleep specialist so that you get the best care. You may be prescribed medicine that can help to reduce daytime sleepiness, prevent cataplexy attacks, and improve your sleep at night. Therefore, it’s important that you go to your doctor if you think you have narcolepsy.

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep...

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities. However,...

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal...

Loneliness and Sleep

We all feel lonely from time to time, but feelings of loneliness are personal. One common description of loneliness is that it’s the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships has not been...

Alcoholism and Sleep

Anyone who has a drink now and again knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. This makes it a great nightcap, right? Well, not really. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll also contribute to poor quality of sleep later....

Sleeping with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition which affects a person’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another without warning. Unlike normal mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, and sometimes longer. While the...

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience. It...

Trauma and Sleep

Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overworked, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline. This makes it hard for the mind and body to relax at the end of...

PTSD and Sleep

A terrifying recurrent dream, drenched in sweat, heart beating fast. Waking up and often being unable to fall asleep again that night. These are the most common disturbances to sleep that someone with PTSD can suffer from. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for...

Autism and Sleep

A good night’s sleep isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s almost impossible for many people with autism. We all know that a poor sleep will make us feel grumpy the next day, and the same is true for people with autism. Whether they can communicate how they’re...

Children with Asperger’s and Sleep Problems

About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and...

Children with ADHD and Sleep Problems

Lack of sleep can be a problem among many children, but especially those with ADHD. Researchers are looking into the links between ADHD and sleep. While the causes of sleep issues for children with ADHD isn’t yet clear, the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep is...

ADHD and Sleep Problems in Adults

Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling...

Sleeping with Depression

Feeling sad now and again is a fundamental part of being human, especially during difficult or trying times. In contrast, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and disinterest in things that were once enjoyed are symptoms of depression. Depression is...

Sleeping with Anxiety

Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the...

Sleeping Disorders in Children

A good night’s sleep is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health – but especially for children. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. However, more than a third of school-aged children may have sleep...

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routines. We need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, to allow healing to take place, and to let our brains process everything we’ve seen and heard during the day. However, with increasingly busy lives,...

7 Tips and Tricks to Get A Good Sleep

There’s nothing worse than waking up at night and not being able to get back to sleep. If this happens on consecutive nights, you can suffer from poor sleep. In a vicious cycle, poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep. Eventually, poor sleep can...

Mindfulness and Sleep

It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice anything. We can get weighed down by work, responsibilities, school, and even thinking about what to have for dinner can be a chore. When we go to bed, our thoughts are still whizzing around, trying to catch up...

How Are Sleep and Mental Health Connected?

Excessive sleepiness can influence your mental health. Failing to get the full seven to nine hours of sleep you need each night can alter your mood, outlook on life, energy levels, motivation, and emotions. The longer you go without the quality...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep complaints.1 These are mental health problems – especially as lack of sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, and sleeping disorders, like insomnia. A good night’s sleep is important for our health and wellbeing. However, for people with Parkinson’s Disease, sleep becomes even more critical as the body needs more time to restore and repair itself.2 Yet, sleep problems can arise even before motor symptoms (tremors, stiffness, and problems with co-ordination) have started.3 The good news is that you, or a carer, can try to make sure that you get a better sleep.

What Are the Most Common Issues?

Some of the common sleep problems for people with Parkinson’s Disease can include:

  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Talking or yelling out while asleep
  • Nightmares or vivid dreaming
  • Sleep attacks (a sudden involuntary episode of sleep)
  • REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (acting out dreams while asleep)
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Difficulty turning over in bed
  • Waking up frequently to go to the bathroom

A recent study by UCLA researchers also found a link between Parkinson’s Disease and narcolepsy4, a disorder that affects how the brain regulates sleep/wake cycles. Read more about narcolepsy in our article here.

People with Parkinson’s Disease can also experience sleepiness during the day, with one study finding daytime sleepiness in 76% of people with Parkinson’s.5

The brain changes that are a part of Parkinson’s cause these sleeping problems, but they could also be linked to medication that’s prescribed to people with the disease.6 Disrupted sleep can affect your health, mood, and overall quality of life – which is especially difficult for people with Parkinson’s, as they need sleep to let the body repair itself. Plus, when people with Parkinson’s Disease don’t sleep well, their carer’s sleep is disrupted, too. Carers need a good sleep to be able to provide the best care during the day.

Problems with Sleeping at Night

Sleep Apnoea

Sleep Apnoea can be found in up to 40% of people with Parkinson’s Disease.7 Common symptoms can include loud snoring, restless sleep, sleepiness during the day, and a pause of breathing while you’re asleep. The pause in breathing is normally noticed by someone else who is sleeping in the same room, and the person who’s stopped breathing momentarily is not always aware that their breathing has paused. However, they’ll wake up briefly when their breathing stops, and this could happen many times throughout the night. As this disrupts their sleep, people with Sleep Apnoea struggle with tiredness through the day. Read more about Sleep Apnoea here.

REM Sleep Behavioural Disorder (SBD)

People with this disorder don’t have the normal relaxation of the muscles while they dream, so they’ll act out their dreams while sleeping. About half of people with Parkinson’s suffer from this8, and it can lead to poor quality of sleep.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and even get up in the morning. If you have insomnia, you’re much more likely to feel sleepy and groggy during the day. People with Parkinson’s Disease can be more prone to insomnia because of motor-related symptoms, like tremors, stiffness, pain, and Restless Leg Syndrome.9 Insomnia can also affect your mood, leading to depression and anxiety, which can make sleeping even harder. Read more about insomnia here.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes you to have an irresistible urge to move to ease uncomfortable sensations. It usually interferes with sleep and leads to tiredness during the day. Read more about RLS in our topic, ‘Restless Leg Syndrome and Sleep’. You can ease RLS with heat pads or electric blankets – browse our selection here. Heat pads and electric blankets are also great for easing pain in joints or muscles.

Parkinson’s Disease can lead to anxiety and depression, which have sleep problems of their own. Read more about them, and how to get a better sleep, in our articles, ‘Sleeping with Depression’ and ‘Sleeping with Anxiety’.

Tips for A Better Sleep

Keep a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning, will help to improve the quality of your sleep. Choose your bedtime depending on when you want to get up – you should get the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep.

Have a relaxing bedtime routine. Following a relaxing routine before bedtime will signal to your brain and body that it’s time to get ready for a sleep, so falling asleep should be easier when you do get into bed. It’s important that it’s relaxing, so you could have a light snack, a soothing bath, and then read a book for a short time before going to sleep.

Spend time outdoors. If possible, spending some time outside is a great way to help your sleep, especially while the sun is out. Getting some fresh air and sunlight is good for helping to regulate your circadian rhythm, which decides when it’s time to be awake or asleep depending on light exposure. If you can’t go outside, sitting next to a window can be just as beneficial. Read more about circadian rhythm here. You could also consider light therapy if you can’t go outdoors. Our S.A.D Therapy Light from Life Max mimics daylight, and you can read more about its benefits here.

Exercise. Gentle exercise, especially in the morning, helps to keep you awake during the day so that you’ll be sleepy at night. Avoid exercising in the evening, and do not do anything stimulating before you go to bed. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

Avoid naps. Do not nap after 3 p.m. as this will stop you from feeling sleepy when you go to bed. If you are tired and need a nap, don’t nap for longer than one hour – and try to nap at the same time every day.

Have a healthy sleeping environment. Make sure that your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. If your room is still too bright during the night, consider blackout curtains to keep the light out.

Limit screen time. Do not watch TV in bed, as the blue light emitted from the screen disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This’ll affect the quality of your sleep, your sleep pattern, and it’ll take longer for you to drift off. If you watch TV in bed, your brain will come to associate your bed with being awake and restless. You should also avoid looking at computers, phones, or laptops for an hour before you go to sleep. Read a book instead or listen to soothing music.

Don’t drink anything before going to bed. Drinking within three hours of going to bed will make you at risk of waking up during the night to go to the toilet. Go to the bathroom before you get into bed to minimise the chances of sleep disturbance.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. While alcohol can help you feel drowsy, drinking it in the evening will actually disrupt your sleep. You’re more likely to wake up to go to the bathroom, and you could struggle with falling back asleep. Also, caffeine should be avoided during the day. While the first cup of coffee in the morning can help raise alertness and keep you awake, drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Think about your diet. Don’t eat heavy meals late in the evening, and don’t eat within two hours of your bedtime.

While these are ideas for helping yourself, or someone you know who has Parkinson’s, get a better sleep, the best way to improve sleep quality is to visit your doctor or the carer. They can advise you on any side effects of medication that could be causing sleepiness or sleep problems, and will help to determine how to treat any sleeping problems that have arisen.

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep...

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities. However,...

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal...

Loneliness and Sleep

We all feel lonely from time to time, but feelings of loneliness are personal. One common description of loneliness is that it’s the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships has not been...

Alcoholism and Sleep

Anyone who has a drink now and again knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. This makes it a great nightcap, right? Well, not really. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll also contribute to poor quality of sleep later....

Sleeping with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition which affects a person’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another without warning. Unlike normal mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, and sometimes longer. While the...

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience. It...

Trauma and Sleep

Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overworked, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline. This makes it hard for the mind and body to relax at the end of...

PTSD and Sleep

A terrifying recurrent dream, drenched in sweat, heart beating fast. Waking up and often being unable to fall asleep again that night. These are the most common disturbances to sleep that someone with PTSD can suffer from. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for...

Autism and Sleep

A good night’s sleep isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s almost impossible for many people with autism. We all know that a poor sleep will make us feel grumpy the next day, and the same is true for people with autism. Whether they can communicate how they’re...

Children with Asperger’s and Sleep Problems

About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and...

Children with ADHD and Sleep Problems

Lack of sleep can be a problem among many children, but especially those with ADHD. Researchers are looking into the links between ADHD and sleep. While the causes of sleep issues for children with ADHD isn’t yet clear, the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep is...

ADHD and Sleep Problems in Adults

Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling...

Sleeping with Depression

Feeling sad now and again is a fundamental part of being human, especially during difficult or trying times. In contrast, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and disinterest in things that were once enjoyed are symptoms of depression. Depression is...

Sleeping with Anxiety

Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the...

Sleeping Disorders in Children

A good night’s sleep is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health – but especially for children. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. However, more than a third of school-aged children may have sleep...

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routines. We need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, to allow healing to take place, and to let our brains process everything we’ve seen and heard during the day. However, with increasingly busy lives,...

7 Tips and Tricks to Get A Good Sleep

There’s nothing worse than waking up at night and not being able to get back to sleep. If this happens on consecutive nights, you can suffer from poor sleep. In a vicious cycle, poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep. Eventually, poor sleep can...

Mindfulness and Sleep

It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice anything. We can get weighed down by work, responsibilities, school, and even thinking about what to have for dinner can be a chore. When we go to bed, our thoughts are still whizzing around, trying to catch up...

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Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is when you’re temporarily unable to move or speak when you’re waking up or falling asleep. You’re awake, but you have no control over your body. It’s not harmful and it should pass after a few seconds or minutes,1 but it can be frightening, and people can find it haunting. It’s understandable that it would make you reluctant to go back to sleep, but the less you sleep, the greater the risk that you’ll experience sleep paralysis. However, the good news is that there are ways for you to lessen this risk, and get a good, peaceful sleep.

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis occurs in the time between waking and sleep, either just after you’ve fallen asleep or upon waking up in the morning. People may feel as if there’s a pressure on their chest, or as if they’re choking, and could feel intense fear.2 These ‘episodes’ are often accompanied by visual, auditory, and sensory hallucinations, which usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. Intruder: there are sounds of door handles turning, shuffling footsteps, a shadow man, or a sense of a threatening presence in the room.
  2. Incubus: feelings of pressure on the chest, difficulty breathing with the sense of being smothered, strangled, or assaulted – the person believes that they’re about to die.
  3. Vestibular-motor: a sense of spinning, falling, floating, flying, hovering over your body, or another type of outer-body experience.

Although many people can have sleep paralysis once or twice in their life, others can experience it a few times a month or more, and it’s most common in teenagers and young adults.3

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis happens when parts of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep occur when you’re awake. REM is a stage of sleep when your brain is very active, and dreams often occur. The body is unable to move, apart from the eyes and muscles used for breathing. This is possibly to stop you from acting your dreams and hurting yourself. It’s not yet known why REM sleep can sometimes happen when you’re awake, but it’s been linked with:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Irregular sleep patterns (e.g. due to shift work or jet lag)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Family history of sleep paralysis
  • Sleeping on your back

While sleep paralysis is usually a one-off or very occasional thing, it can be a symptom of depression, sleep apnoea, and anxiety.4 As these problems are serious contributes to poor sleep and mental health, read more about them in our articles, ‘Sleeping with Depression‘, ‘Sleeping with Anxiety‘, and our article that explores Sleep Apnoea.

Also, as sleep paralysis has been associated with not getting enough sleep, it can lead to sleep deprivation and insomnia.5 Read more about insomnia here.

It’s also thought that sleep paralysis could be a sign of narcolepsy, a rare brain disorder that causes a person to unexpectantly fall asleep or lose muscle control at inappropriate times.6 Read more about the condition in our article here.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis?

The main symptom of sleep paralysis is being completely aware of your surroundings but temporarily unable to move or talk.7 Symptoms can also include:

  • Being consciously awake
  • Hallucinations and sensations that cause fear
  • Feeling pressure on the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling as if you’re going to die
  • Sweating
  • Headaches, muscle pains, and paranoia

The ‘episode’ may only last a few seconds or minutes, and you’ll speak and move normally afterwards. However, you may feel unsettled and anxious about going to sleep again, and this can cause longer term problems, like sleep disorders. Find out more about sleep disorders, and how to help them, in our article, ‘Common Sleep Disorders‘.

Should You See A Doctor?

While sleep paralysis itself is not considered a medical condition,8 it would still be good to see a doctor if the symptoms are concerning you. Consulting your doctor is especially a good idea if you’re experiencing sleep paralysis regularly, feeling anxious about going to sleep, or if you have narcolepsy. If you are stressed and anxious about sleeping, this will prevent you from getting a good sleep. This can be more negative for your health than sleep paralysis itself, so talking to your doctor is always the best way to help yourself. Your doctor will also be able to determine if there is an underlying problem causing sleep paralysis, like a sleeping disorder.

Tips for A Better Sleep

There are no specific treatments for sleep paralysis but improving your sleeping habits and sleep hygiene will help to reduce the likelihood of experiencing it. We’ve gathered some ideas for how you can help yourself get a better snooze.

Keep a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night, and waking up at the same time every morning, will help you get the hours of sleep you need. It’s important that you’re consistent with this, even on weekends and holidays.

Have a healthy sleeping environment. Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. You should also check that your mattress is comfortable. If it’s lumpy and old, it may not be providing the support you need for a restful sleep. Browse our selection of mattresses here.

Reduce light exposure in the evenings. Limiting how much light you’re surrounded by in the evenings will help to regulate your circadian rhythm, or inner body clock. Your circadian rhythm runs in the background of your brain and determines when it’s time to be alert or sleepy. It’s influenced by light; when the sun is up, you should be too. So, when the sun goes down, your body knows that it’s time to start thinking about sleep. In the evenings, avoid turning on bright lights, and instead switch on table lamps for a more subtle atmosphere. Keeping your circadian rhythm stable will help you get a good sleep, so it’s also a good idea to get good daylight exposure during the day. Read more about your circadian rhythm here.

Only sleep in your bed. Don’t do any work or studying in bed – your brain will associate your bed with this, and it’ll become the last place you want to relax.

Think about your diet. Don’t eat heavy meals late in the evening, and don’t eat within two hours of your bedtime.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Caffeine can help you feel alert first thing in the morning, but drinking it during the day will leave you too awake to sleep properly at night-time. Drinking alcohol later in the evening will also prevent you from getting a deep sleep, and it can lower the quality of your sleep, too.

Avoid screens before going to bed. Don’t use your TV, tablet, laptop, or mobile phone during the hour before you go to sleep. These screens emit a blue light that disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So, if you keep away from these screens, your melatonin levels are not harmed, and you’ll fall asleep easier.

Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep. Read a book for an hour before going to sleep. Doing something relaxing for bed will help your body relax enough to fall asleep easier. Be consistent with this routine – your brain will come to associate it with sleep.

Consider meditation. Meditating is a great way to encourage your body to slow down and relax. Focus on your breathing – slowly take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale. You can also visualise a peaceful scene, like a deserted beach. Read more about meditation in our article here.

Don’t sleep on your back. It’s thought that sleeping on your back can increase the chances of sleep paralysis,9 so, if you can, sleep on your side instead. If you’re used to sleeping on your back, it’ll take a bit of time for you to get used to a new sleeping position. Giving yourself time to get used to this is key, so be patient with it. Sleeping on your front is an alternative, but this can be less comfortable for some.

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep...

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities. However,...

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal...

Loneliness and Sleep

We all feel lonely from time to time, but feelings of loneliness are personal. One common description of loneliness is that it’s the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships has not been...

Alcoholism and Sleep

Anyone who has a drink now and again knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. This makes it a great nightcap, right? Well, not really. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll also contribute to poor quality of sleep later....

Sleeping with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition which affects a person’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another without warning. Unlike normal mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, and sometimes longer. While the...

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience. It...

Trauma and Sleep

Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overworked, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline. This makes it hard for the mind and body to relax at the end of...

PTSD and Sleep

A terrifying recurrent dream, drenched in sweat, heart beating fast. Waking up and often being unable to fall asleep again that night. These are the most common disturbances to sleep that someone with PTSD can suffer from. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for...

Autism and Sleep

A good night’s sleep isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s almost impossible for many people with autism. We all know that a poor sleep will make us feel grumpy the next day, and the same is true for people with autism. Whether they can communicate how they’re...

Children with Asperger’s and Sleep Problems

About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and...

Children with ADHD and Sleep Problems

Lack of sleep can be a problem among many children, but especially those with ADHD. Researchers are looking into the links between ADHD and sleep. While the causes of sleep issues for children with ADHD isn’t yet clear, the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep is...

ADHD and Sleep Problems in Adults

Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling...

Sleeping with Depression

Feeling sad now and again is a fundamental part of being human, especially during difficult or trying times. In contrast, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and disinterest in things that were once enjoyed are symptoms of depression. Depression is...

Sleeping with Anxiety

Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the...

Sleeping Disorders in Children

A good night’s sleep is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health – but especially for children. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. However, more than a third of school-aged children may have sleep...

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routines. We need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, to allow healing to take place, and to let our brains process everything we’ve seen and heard during the day. However, with increasingly busy lives,...

7 Tips and Tricks to Get A Good Sleep

There’s nothing worse than waking up at night and not being able to get back to sleep. If this happens on consecutive nights, you can suffer from poor sleep. In a vicious cycle, poor sleep leads to worrying, and worrying leads to poor sleep. Eventually, poor sleep can...

Mindfulness and Sleep

It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice anything. We can get weighed down by work, responsibilities, school, and even thinking about what to have for dinner can be a chore. When we go to bed, our thoughts are still whizzing around, trying to catch up...

How Are Sleep and Mental Health Connected?

Excessive sleepiness can influence your mental health. Failing to get the full seven to nine hours of sleep you need each night can alter your mood, outlook on life, energy levels, motivation, and emotions. The longer you go without the quality...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities.1 However, not only is someone’s day affected – but their sleeping habits, too. Someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia may sleep a lot or not enough, and they could wake up frequently throughout the night. Someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia needs a good sleep at night, but how can they – and their carers – make sure that they get it?

Dementia and Sleep Problems

People with dementia, especially those in the later stages of life, can often spend a lot of time sleeping. This can be worrying for friends, family, and carers. However, sleeping more and more – both during the day and night – is a common feature of later-stage dementia. As Alzheimer’s Dementia progresses, the damage to a person’s brain becomes more extensive. The person will gradually become weaker and frailer. As a result, they could find it exhausting to carry out relatively simple tasks, like communicating, eating, or trying to understand what’s going on around them.2 As their symptoms become more severe, someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia will sleep during the day.

Medication can also contribute to sleepiness. This includes some antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, and sleeping pills.3 If you’re worried about medication making someone with dementia sleepy, check with a doctor as they’ll be able to go through the side effects with you.

Sleeping disorders can also cause someone with dementia to sleep more during the day – and it doesn’t have to be related to dementia itself. If someone’s suffered from a sleeping disorder throughout their life, like Sleep Apnoea or insomnia, this can make the symptoms of dementia even worse. For example, disrupted sleep during the night and not getting the required rest will lead to grogginess and irritability during the day. This could make someone with dementia even more frustrated, and it’ll likely lead to them sleeping for longer during the day. If someone with dementia has had trouble with a sleeping disorder, let the doctor know – the more they know, the better they can treat them.

You can read more about different sleep disorders in our article, ‘Common Sleep Disorders‘, with tips for a better sleep.

What Should You Do If Someone with Dementia Is Sleeping A Lot?

If they’re in the later stages of dementia and have gradually started sleeping more, it’s likely that this is because the dementia is progressing. However, if the excessive sleeping has started more suddenly, or they don’t seem well in other ways, there could be something else causing this. If this is the case, speak to the doctor or the carer to rule out any infections or conditions that could be having a negative effect on their sleep.

Why Does Alzheimer’s Dementia Affect Sleep?

Sleep problems for people with Alzheimer’s Dementia can include:

  • Sleeping during the day and being awake and restless at night.
  • Becoming disorientated in the dark if they wake up to use the toilet.
  • Waking up more often and staying awake longer during the night.
  • Getting up in the early hours and thinking it’s daytime or time to go to work (disorientation in time).
  • Not being able to tell the difference between night and day.

It’s not yet known exactly why dementia affects sleeping patterns. For some, it could be that their internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, is confused. The circadian rhythm judges what time it is and when we need to sleep, and it’s influenced by how much sunlight or darkness we’re surrounded by. Someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia could have a damaged clock – this’ll make them feel sleepy at the wrong time of day. Read more about the circadian rhythm here.

Disturbed sleep not only has a negative effect on the person’s wellbeing, but those living with them, too. When someone with dementia is awake during the night, they’ll need cared for – this disrupts the sleep of those caring for them.

Does Sleep Quality Matter for People with Alzheimer’s Dementia?

The quality of sleep for someone with dementia gradually deteriorates as the dementia progresses. They’ll tend to get less sleep, or ‘slow-wave’ sleep. ‘Slow wave’ sleep helps to keep the brain healthy and refreshed. If someone with dementia is getting less of this needed sleep, they will be tired and more frustrated during the day. Even though a person with dementia may sleep more than a typical person their age – even as much as 14 – 15 hours a day – it’s unlikely to all be good quality sleep.

Tips for A Better Sleep

Although it can be hard for someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia to get a good sleep, there are some ways they (or their carers) can try to help them sleep better.

Make sure they have plenty of sunlight and things to do during the day. Getting someone with dementia outside can be hard, especially if they’re in the later stages of dementia. However, if you can get them outside when the sun is out, this will help to regulate the circadian rhythm. This’ll make it more likely that they’ll feel sleepy at night, when it’s time to go to bed. Even getting them to sit next to a window will help. Stimulating them to do something during the day can also be a challenge, but this will also help make them tired enough to sleep during the night. It doesn’t have to be anything too big – a short walk can be enough. Gentle exercise could help them sleep, but avoid doing anything in the evening.

Have a good sleeping environment. Make sure the bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. If the room is still too bright during the night, consider blackout blinds and curtains.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Caffeine can help someone feel alert first thing in the morning, but drinking it during the day will leave someone too awake to sleep properly at night-time. Alcohol will also prevent someone from getting a deep sleep, and it can disrupt the sleep, too.

Have a relaxing routine. Something as simple as having a glass of warm milk, or having a bath or shower before bed, can help someone relax.

If they wake up during the night, remind them that’s night-time. They’ll be confused and might even try to get up if they wake during the night. However, gently remind them of where they are and that it’s time to go back to sleep.

These are tips for helping someone with dementia get a better sleep. However, the best way to help them is to consult their doctor or carer. They will know of any side effects of the medication they’re on, and they’ll also know of any warning signs in their sleep patterns. Keeping the doctor or carer up-to-date will make sure that someone with Alzheimer’s Dementia is getting the best help.

How Does Grief Affect Your Sleep?

Grief is an essential human experience. We’ll all experience grief in our lives, but we’ll experience it differently. Grief also pervades all aspects of our lives; our thoughts ae consumed by our loss, our appetite shifts and food can taste differently, and we’re less...

Narcolepsy and Sleep

We all struggle with disturbed sleep and tiredness now and again, but it’s part of everyday life for people with narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate...

Sleeping with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes a loss of cells in the part of the brain that controls your movement. While Parkinson’s itself is not a mental health problem, it’s been linked with memory problems, depression, and sleep...

Sleep Paralysis

We all get nightmares, whether it’s being chased by an angry mob or getting a big red ‘F’ on an exam we didn’t even have to do. However, the good thing is that we wake up from them. People who struggle with sleep paralysis don’t have this luxury. Sleep paralysis is...

Sleeping with Alzheimer’s Dementia

Alzheimer’s Dementia is the gradual decline of brain functioning and is the most common type of dementia in the UK. It can affect your memory, thinking skills, and other mental abilities. However,...

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal...

Loneliness and Sleep

We all feel lonely from time to time, but feelings of loneliness are personal. One common description of loneliness is that it’s the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships has not been...

Alcoholism and Sleep

Anyone who has a drink now and again knows that beer, wine, or spirits can sometimes leave you feeling drowsy. This makes it a great nightcap, right? Well, not really. While alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll also contribute to poor quality of sleep later....

Sleeping with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition which affects a person’s moods, which can swing from one extreme to another without warning. Unlike normal mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks, and sometimes longer. While the...

Schizophrenia and Sleep

Many people have heard of schizophrenia, but this isn’t to say that they understand what it is. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that about 1 in 100 people experience. It...

Trauma and Sleep

Stress from a traumatic event can often lead to a variety of sleep problems. When the body is overworked, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals that keep us awake, such as epinephrine and adrenaline. This makes it hard for the mind and body to relax at the end of...

PTSD and Sleep

A terrifying recurrent dream, drenched in sweat, heart beating fast. Waking up and often being unable to fall asleep again that night. These are the most common disturbances to sleep that someone with PTSD can suffer from. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common for...

Autism and Sleep

A good night’s sleep isn’t guaranteed for everyone, but it’s almost impossible for many people with autism. We all know that a poor sleep will make us feel grumpy the next day, and the same is true for people with autism. Whether they can communicate how they’re...

Children with Asperger’s and Sleep Problems

About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and...

Children with ADHD and Sleep Problems

Lack of sleep can be a problem among many children, but especially those with ADHD. Researchers are looking into the links between ADHD and sleep. While the causes of sleep issues for children with ADHD isn’t yet clear, the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep is...

ADHD and Sleep Problems in Adults

Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling...

Sleeping with Depression

Feeling sad now and again is a fundamental part of being human, especially during difficult or trying times. In contrast, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and disinterest in things that were once enjoyed are symptoms of depression. Depression is...

Sleeping with Anxiety

Many of us toss and turn or watch the clock when we struggle to fall asleep for a night or two. However, for some, a restless night is normal. It’s a frustrating routine; your mind starts to race the same moment your head hits the pillow. You start to worry about the...

Sleeping Disorders in Children

A good night’s sleep is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health – but especially for children. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. However, more than a third of school-aged children may have sleep...

Common Sleep Disorders

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routines. We need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, to allow healing to take place, and to let our brains process everything we’ve seen and heard during the day. However, with increasingly busy lives,...

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Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Postnatal Depression and Sleep

Having a baby is an exciting time, but it can also be emotional as it’s a huge change to your life – especially if this is your first baby. While new mothers can be happy, tired, emotional, and even tearful, it’s thought that 14% of new mothers suffer from Postnatal Depression within the first three months after giving birth.1 While Postnatal Depression makes every day harder, it can also make getting a good sleep difficult. Find out how Postnatal Depression and sleep are connected below.

What is Postnatal Depression?

Postnatal Depression (PND), sometimes known as postpartum depression, is a form of depression that affects new parents after they’ve had a baby. Many women can feel down, tearful, or anxious after giving birth, but if this lasts for more than two weeks, you could have PND.2 A new mother could even feel pressure to be happy and excited. If a woman doesn’t feel the joy that’s expected from her, she can worry even more and think there’s something wrong with her. However, there isn’t. Like all forms of depression, PND is normal, treatable, and nothing to be ashamed of.

“Baby Blues” vs. Postnatal Depression

The “Baby Blues” is a brief period of when a new mother feels emotional and tearful around 3 – 10 days after giving birth. It’s natural to feel emotional and overwhelmed after experiencing childbirth and becoming a new parent. As well as this, you can find yourself coping with a lot of new demands on your time and attention, and you’ll struggle to get a good sleep while your new baby adjusts to life at home. Although the “Baby Blues” can be distressing for new mothers, it’s important to remember that it won’t last long, and is generally manageable.

However, new mothers can develop Postnatal Depression, a much deeper and longer-term depression. PND usually develops within 6 weeks of giving birth and can come on gradually or suddenly. Ranging from relatively mild to very severe, every new mother experiences it differently, but it’s important to remember that they’re not alone.

Why Does PND Develop?

Although it usually develops with 6 weeks of giving birth, PND can occur at any time within the first year after having your baby. PND was explained by hormonal and body changes, but there are other factors included:

  • A history of problems with mental health, either during pregnancy or before it.
  • A lack of close family and friends to support you.
  • Relationship issues with your partner.
  • Stressful life events, such as bereavement.

However, even if you don’t have any of these problems in your life, you could still struggle with PND. Giving birth and going home with your new baby is a massive life-changing event, which can often be a trigger in itself.

Signs of Postnatal Depression

Symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and how long you suffer from it depends on the severity of your condition and what treatment you choose. However, there are common signs of PND:

  • Low mood – persistent feelings of sadness and irritability.
  • Apathy – you may lose interest in the world around you and struggle to motivate yourself to do anything.
  • Sleep problems – the exhaustion of looking after a baby who won’t sleep or wakes often can make PND worse, but you may also struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Appetite – losing your appetite or comfort eating to make yourself feel better.
  • Frightening thoughts.
  • Excessive worry about the baby’s health or schedule.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Feeling guilty.
  • Lack of energy.

The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Postnatal Depression

A study titled “Association Between Sleep Quality and Postpartum Depression” was published on the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences website. This study found a connection between sleep quality and PND, with sleep deprivation and sleep patterns being “potential factors which can be associated with postpartum depression”. Delivery can have “physical, physiological, and psychological effects on women’s sleep”, and taking care of a new baby who doesn’t sleep regularly will result in the mother struggling to keep a regular sleep schedule herself. The link between poor sleep quality and PND is a two-way street; depression may lead to sleep deprivation, while sleep problems can increase the risk of developing depression.3

Helping Yourself Feel Better by Getting A Good Sleep

Getting a good sleep is key to helping yourself cope with any form of depression but, when you’ve got a new baby to look after, this is easier said than done. However, helping yourself feel a bit better can help you sleep better, too. We’ve gathered a few ways to do this below.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Parents are under a lot of pressure and are bombarded with conflicting advice to do this or do that. No one’s perfect, and everyone needs time to find what works for them and their baby. Parenting is something you learn every day, not by reading a textbook. If you have a bad day or think you’re not doing well, that’s normal.

Watch your diet. Avoid caffeine; although the first cup of coffee will keep you alert, having coffee during the afternoon or evening will keep you from getting a good sleep. Avoid alcohol, too, as it will keep you from getting a full sleep. Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Exercise. It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise – just walking or swimming are great ways to start. You could take your baby for a walk, too; it’s a great way to bond with your little one, you’ll get your exercise, and the fresh air could tire your baby out so that they might be snoozing peacefully when you get home. For a woman who’s depressed, exercise can seem overwhelming, so take it slow if going outside seems impossible. You can read more about how exercise helps improve your sleep in our article, ‘Five Ways Exercise Helps You Sleep’.

Take time for yourself. Even it’s an hour or two a couple of times a week, try to put some time aside for yourself. Take a walk, read a book, meet a friend, or do whatever you like doing.

Assign baby duties. Split night-time baby duty so that you and your partner each get at least one solid five-hour block of uninterrupted sleep. One of you is on duty from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., and the other from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. You can adjust these times to your schedule. The parent who is on-duty can still sleep, but they’ll be the one who gets up when the baby wakes up. Consider pumping breastmilk so that your partner can feed the baby with a bottle of milk without interrupting your sleep.

Look after your hygiene. When you’re struggling with depression, it’s easy for hygiene to be pushed to the back burner. However, small things, like taking a shower and getting fully dressed even if you’re not leaving the house, can make a huge difference to how you feel. If you feel better, you’ll feel more rested for going to sleep.

These are some ways you could help yourself feel a bit better, but the best way to help yourself – and your baby – is to visit your doctor. Talking to your doctor about how you feel, and how you sleep, can help them determine the best solution that’ll get you back to yourself.

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