Manage Sleep Difficulties and Dementia

Symptoms of sleep disorder
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias may cause sleeping difficulties. These difficulties can include both problems with sleeping, as well as changes in sleep schedules. This issue is more common in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, but can occur at any time in the disease process.

One possible symptom of sleeping difficulties includes waking up more often and/or staying awake longer. People occasionally wander, are restless, and may yell out in the night. Sometimes sleeping difficulties are independently caused by depression, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea – which is why it is important to seek professional medical advice if these issues persist. 

Tips for good sleep patterns
There are many non-drug interventions that caregivers can try before exploring medications. For exampling, having regular meals and sleep times – creating a routine – may help avoid sleep-related issues. This will help the body to regulate its internal clock.

Morning sunlight exposure is also recommended. Regular exercise is encouraged, but no later than four hours before the person goes to bed. It is important to avoid stimulants such as caffeine in the evenings as well. Ensure that the bedroom temperature is comfortable. Nightlights and other security/assistance devices also should be provided.

Caregivers can also consult with their physician regarding any pain that is causing the diagnosed person discomfort while sleeping.

There are several medications that can be used to help a person sleep better, however they may have side-effects. Please talk with a doctor before using sleep medications. When visiting the doctor, it is imperative to explore and understand the risks, benefits, and options available.

Contact us for assistance
For more information about sleeping difficulties, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900 or visit

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