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,...

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...

Footnotes

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/
  2. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day
  3. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day
Share This