Dementia can make sleeping difficult and a recent report I read found 35-70% of people who are living with dementia experience insomnia. Additionally, people who are living with dementia also wake more frequently and experience less REM sleep than those without the condition and attribute sleep disturbances to:
• Lack of exercise
• Daytime naps
• Damage to the brain’s “internal clock”
• Disturbing and unpleasant dreams (nightmares)
• Some experts believe viewing screens at bedtime are also responsible
There are solutions to help with the insomnia:
• Have a daily routine for exercise, activities, and bedtime. Limit daytime nap/snooze to 30 minutes in total - no more
• Go outside in the morning for a short walk and wake up both body and mind. Seeing sunlight means “daytime”
• Create a bedtime routine, including a snack, reading, or easy listening music
• Exercise 30 minutes daily. Try dancing, walking, tai chi, or yoga. Your GP will happily recommend options if your mobility is a problem.
• Ask your GP if any of your medications may be causing sleeplessness or drowsiness. If possible, suggest changes in your medications or when they are taken.
Perhaps a tablet which makes a person slightly sleepy could be taken later in the evening.
• Avoid caffeine after mid-morning. As a cup of coffee or tea at 4 pm in the afternoon can cause you to be still wide awake at 4 am
Always help your loved one return to their bed quickly. Quietly remind him or her that it is still night and they should now be in bed. Use nightlights in the hallway and bathroom to reduce the chance that they will get lost or wander.
Try and eat a low-fat, light, bedtime snack.
• Lightly sweetened yogurt with cherries
• A muffin made with whole grains, almonds, bananas
• Chamomile tea or cold milk (one serving only)
• Protein sources (milk, yogurt, peanuts, almonds, edamame, hard-boiled egg)
• Mineral-rich fruits (cherries, dates, bananas, grapes, kiwi)
Speak with your GP about medications as they can affect the chemistry of the brain and can make you feel dizzy and prone to falling. Other side-effects include daytime drowsiness, incontinence and confusion.
The stress of being a Carer may cause you to develop insomnia or depression. So speak with family and friends, or hire your own carer, to stay up with your loved one whilst you rest as it will be much needed.