Alzheimer’s and Sleep: Don’t Be Left in the Dark

Alzheimer’s and Sleep: Don’t Be Left in the Dark

Alzheimer’s and Sleep: Don’t Be Left in the Dark

People with Alzheimer’s will sometimes experience problems during sleeping hours. Such problems can include difficulty sleeping, “sundowning”, and experiencing hallucinations triggered by diminishing brightness. In this blog, we will talk about all three challenges and appropriate ways to help prevent these problems.

  1. Difficulty Sleeping: Your loved one with Alzheimer’s will likely experience changes in their sleep pattern. This is a common symptom of aging in general, but it can be exacerbated by the illness. Although scientists don’t exactly know why there are changes in sleep, it is likely due to the fact that Alzheimer’s is impacting patients’ brains, causing complex disruptions in their sleep schedule. Other causes might include feelings of anxiety and restlessness as a result of Alzheimer’s, which might disturb your loved one as they go to sleep. There might also be causes in the environment that contribute to anger and anxiety, resulting in sleep disturbances.Whatever the case may be, at one point you will encounter this challenge. How can you help? First, you can try to pay close attention to your loved one’s mood and behavior over time. Observe the things to which they react negatively and remove those things from their surrounding environment. Second, you can help your loved one stay on a schedule. Falling asleep is often dependent on our own psychology and the routines we organize throughout the day. Make sure your loved one is ready for bed at least 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Thirdly, don’t do anything that will overstimulate your loved one right before bedtime, like going outside to walk or drinking caffeinated drinks.
  2. Sundowning: “Sundowning” is defined as increased negative behaviors that begin at sundown and last into the night. [1] Many of the above prescriptions can be followed to prevent sundowning, but here are some more to consider [2]:
        • Make the sleep environment comfortable and conducive to sleep
        • Increase activity during the day, e.g. walking around the park or light gardening (whatever your loved one enjoys and feels safe doing)
        • Reduce the use of electronics at night. Since “blue light” emitted from TV screens and smartphones can negatively impact sleep quality, it is best to avoid using electronics a two to three hours before bed

3. Hallucinations: Sometimes, as the sun goes down, this causes items in the house to look   slightly different, often casting larger shadows on the floor and walls. Somebody with a degenerative neurological disorder may mistake these shadows for unfamiliar things, often triggering hallucinations. These experiences can be very scary and disorienting for your loved one, so it is best to be proactive. To help prevent hallucinations, make sure that the room your loved one is currently in is well-lit and keep an ear out for unfamiliar noises which may contribute to hallucinations. [3]

If you have any questions about Alzheimer’s or how ElderCare can help, then please call us at 888-285-0095 or visit our website!

[1] Source: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-sleep-issues-sundowning.asp

[2] Source: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-sleep-issues-sundowning.asp

[3] Source: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-hallucinations.asp

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