How To Tackle Sleeping Problems Of A Dementia Patient? 

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Patients who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia often experience sleeping problems. This is also known as sundowning where dementia patients have trouble sleeping and increased behavioral issues which usually starts at dusk or night. The restlessness keeps them awake throughout the night.

Since sleep is essential for a calm mind and a healthy routine, the situation of sleep-deprived Dementia patients gets worse more than ever. They are confused and filled with anger and agitation at all times. While some of the caregivers try to handle the situation themselves by helping their loved ones calm down and get some sleep others to seek help from assisted living facilities. These centers help patients with medications but again it is not the ultimate solution.

Factors that make sleeping issues exacerbate

The best way to deal with an issue is to understand why it occurs in the first place. Some studies suggest that the sleep disturbances are due to the impact of Alzheimer or Dementia on the brain. Though, there are other factors too that can make seniors with dementia have sleep issues such as:

➢ The physical and mental exhaustion by day end

➢ Changes in the internal body clock

➢ The agitated behavior by a patient can be a reaction towards an argument by a caregiver who is again exhausted at their day end. It can again be a reason for their restlessness.

➢ Since the disease affects the brain directly, the patients are often not able to distinguish between dream and reality which fills them with confusion and anger.

➢ Commonly, when humans start aging, they sleeps are usually fragmented.

➢ Shadows during night often leave them confused and frighten them.

➢ Sleep apnea occurs in case of severe dementia in which patients experience respiratory issues, thus keeping them awake all night.

How to Improve Sleep in Dementia?

A caregiver can play an essential role here by bringing changes in the lifestyle of the dementia patient. These changes will surely enhance the sleeping process by overcoming all the difficulties:

➢ Using Light Therapy

It is crucial for dementia patients to go out in the day and experience the sunlight so that their circadian rhythm or so-called inner body clock stays on track. But caregivers may often find it difficult to take their loved ones out. In such as a case they can consider light therapy where a bright lamp can imitate the sun. Though, this has proved useful to combat sleep issues only in the case of patients who have moderate dementia.

➢ Physical movement during the day

Though mobility can be challenging for dementia patients, it is the job of a caregiver to include some exercises in the patient’s daily routine. They can start with brisk walking and can end with few stretches to finally get some sleep at night.

➢ Work on the sleeping environment

The more cozy and comfortable the bedroom is, the higher are the chances for the patient to sleep. The bed should be used for nothing else but sleeping so that the mind knows it’s time. The room should be dark, silent and will optimum temperature that will help the patient sleep quickly.

➢ Sleeping schedule

Circadian rhythm works best with a consistent wake-up time. It impacts the sleeping cycle in a significant way. Thus, a caregiver must fix the time for morning and night so that their loved-ones can escape all the restlessness and can have a sound sleep for better health.


Though sleeping problems are common in dementia patients, it can be overcome with changes in lifestyle and daily routine. If a caregiver can pay attention to timings and build a suitable environment for their loved ones, they can definitely experience the difference.

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