Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert
Question: My mother frequently wakes up in the middle of night. What can I do to stop this?
Answer: People with dementia often have certain problems when it gets dark at the end of the day and into the night. This problem is called “sundowning.” The problems that get worse include increased confusion, anxiety, agitation, confusion, and not being able to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Important Things to Know About Dementia and Sleep
- Up to half the people with dementia have difficulty with sleeping.
- Good sleep is important for people with dementia to improve daytime function
- Patients with dementia might be tired during the day, but not be able to sleep well at night.
- It is best to keep the same sleep/wake times and routine as before the dementia began.
- Some drugs used to treat dementia may also affect sleep.
- It is good to nap during the day and the best time for this is before lunchtime.
- A person with dementia might wander at night, but there are ways to reduce this.
Tips for Behavior and Sleep Problems
Having a daily routine may help. Calmly reassuring and giving cues to orient the person who has dementia is also helpful in the evening and closer to bedtime. Try to keep them going to bed at the same time every night.
Doing calm activities at the end of the day and before bedtime may help the person with dementia sleep better at night. If they are active during the day, these calm activities can make them tired and more able to sleep.
Avoid loud noises and activity in the home at night, so the person does not wake up once they are asleep.
Do NOT restrain a person with dementia when they are in bed. If you are using a hospital bed that has guard rails in the home, putting the rails up may help keep the person from wandering at night.
Always talk with the health care provider before giving the patient store-bought sleep medicines. Many sleep aids can make confusion worse.
Take the person to places where they can move around and exercise during the day, such as shopping malls.
Also, try not to let your loved one take long naps during the daytime.
For more information about this topic, please call us at (561) 588-4545.