Seniors with dementia may face issues with sleeping at night. Dementia experts themselves aren’t entirely certain about the link between dementia and sleeping well at night. However, there are a few potential issues that might cause sleep problems in individuals with dementia. A good way of finding out which of these are affecting your loved one is to keep a journal that tracks their different habits. Let us look at the links between dementia and sleeping well at night.
Changes to the Brain
As dementia changes brain cells, it can also affect a person’s circadian rhythms. Disruptions to circadian rhythms can cause an individual to confuse between morning and night. This can cause an individual with dementia to feel tired during the day. They might then take long naps, which in turn causes them to stay up late at night.
Sundowning is common in people with dementia. Sundowning can begin at dusk and carry on throughout the night and can be seen through an increase in confusion, agitation, disorientation, and anxiety. These intense emotions can make it difficult for individuals to relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
There are a few different types of insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Frequently waking up during the night
- Being unable to fall asleep again after waking up
While a few sleepless nights every now and then is common, those with insomnia suffer sleeplessness every night. They might find themselves taking numerous naps throughout the day to make up for the lack of sleep.
Breathing issues such as sleep apnea, which affects 50% of adults associated with dementia, is another cause of sleeping difficulties for people with dementia. Sleep apnea is characterized by regular pauses in breathing and these pauses cause an individual to wake up. When this happens throughout the night, an individual’s sleep is constantly disrupted. If you notice momentary pauses in your loved one’s breathing while they sleep, it might point towards them suffering from sleep apnea.
Movements During Sleep
People with dementia might also experience other conditions such as restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is a condition characterized by uncontrollable urges to move your legs. While moving your legs might relieve this urge temporarily, the desire can return very quickly. This ends in a continuous cycle which can disturb individuals and prevent them from sleeping well or at all.
Dealing with Sleep Problems and Dementia
There are a few ways that you can help a loved one experiencing sleep problems because of dementia to sleep well at night. They can include helping your loved one keep to a consistent schedule, which includes performing their daily routine at the same time each day, keeping to a daily exercise regimen, and monitoring their naps. A good night-time routine can also help your loved one relax and have a better sleep. At Seaton Hagerstown, we understand the complex difficulties that aging can bring. Our Memory Care program provides dedicated and exceptional care for the elderly with memory-related diagnoses. Reach out to us today to find out more.