Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Tips on How to Improve Sleeping Habits

Better Sleep for Your Loved One with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease


If you sleep normally, you might take a good night’s sleep for granted. But getting enough sleep is crucial for your–or a loved one’s–mental and physical well-being. This is especially true for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This disease affects the brain, causing problems with memory, learning, mood, and behavior. If you have a loved one with the disease, you should know it can also affect his or her sleep.


Types of Sleep Disturbances

In the United States, an estimated one in three seniors has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Of those affected, many have trouble sleeping. This can include problems getting to sleep and staying asleep. Some older adults with dementia may experience confusion when they wake up during the night.


Some people with dementia and Alzheimer’s also experience sundowning, also known as sundown syndrome. This is a type of restlessness that some dementia patients experience in the late afternoon into early evening. Sundowning can include increases in mood swings, confusion, and erratic behaviors. It can also make it harder for dementia patients to calm down enough for sleep.


There are some things you can do to help your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s sleep better. Here are some tactics to try.


Keep a Regular Daytime Schedule

Schedules are important for people seeking Alzheimer’s and dementia care because schedules help the patient feel in control of their day. You can provide your loved one with a simple schedule at the start of the day so he or she knows what to expect. Doing things at the same times provides stability during a time in their lives when they feel unstable. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends writing a daily plan, including times for sleeping and waking.


Comfort Keepers’ caregivers can help your loved one make–and stick to–a schedule. We can help your loved one with the activities they need to perform each day, such as bathing and meal preparation. We can also help your loved one with leisure activities, such as listening to music or playing board games.  


Talk to Their Doctor About Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions apart from dementia and Alzheimer’s can cause sleep disturbances or make them worse. Examples include depression and sleep apnea. Also, some medications can disrupt your loved one’s sleep. Talk to his or her doctor about additional medical issues and medications. Sometimes a simple change can make a big difference to the quality of your loved one’s sleep.


Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Evening

Even people without Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have trouble sleeping after consuming too much caffeine or alcohol. These drugs are known to disrupt sleep. They may also add to your loved one’s confusion later in the day. Avoid them for several hours before bed.


Create a Calm, Safe Environment

Start a routine of making the house peaceful for your loved one an hour or so before bed. If it’s still light out, close the curtains to block out sunlight. Natural light affects your loved one’s circadian rhythm and can make them feel wide awake for longer. Play some soft music and engage in calm activities, such as reading aloud.


To minimize confusion during the night, add a soft night light to your loved one’s bedroom. Make sure the route to the bathroom is well-lit and clutter-free as well.


Make Sure Your Loved One Gets Enough Exercise

Several studies have shown the effects of regular exercise on sleep. Physical activities can also help improve your loved one’s quality of life. A caregiver can help your loved one perform simple exercises, such as walking, swimming, or yoga. Combining physical exercise with time spent outdoors can also help with better sleep.

Sleep doesn’t always come easily to patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Try these tips to help your loved one start getting more of the sleep he or she needs.

If you’re located in the greater Philadelphia area, Comfort Keepers can help you care for your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. We understand the unique challenges posed by this brain condition. Contact us or call 877-698-9394 for more information or for your free in-home assessment.