10 Ways Caregivers Can Help Loved Ones with Dementia Sleep Better

Discover common ways caregivers can support loved ones with dementia to improve their sleeping habits.

Dementia is complex and heartbreaking; it can take a toll on caregivers and those living with it. If you are caring for a family member who suffers from the disease, you already know how difficult your job is, and you will likely face many challenges along the way. One of the biggest unexpected obstacles many caregivers face is a lack of sleep for themselves and their loved ones. Dementia patients often find sleeping through the night problematic, and they may be up and wandering while they, and their caregivers, should be sleeping. 

Safety is paramount for dementia, and many caregivers install wireless bed alarms. These alarms are similar to the ones used in hospitals and personal care homes, and they can enhance security and prevent dementia patients from wandering off. But beyond that essential safety device, there are other steps caregivers can take to keep their loved ones safe and themselves sane. 

Here are ten tips for helping a loved one with dementia sleep soundly through the night. 

1. Stick to a routine 

Dementia patients benefit from a regular routine, so set a schedule and stick to it. From mealtimes to bedtime, having a routine is vital for physical health and healthy sleep. 

2. Keep the individual awake and active during the day 

Napping during the day is common with dementia patients, and that daytime sleeping can make sleeping through the night difficult. Try to keep the individual up and active as much as possible during the day so they will be tired and sleepy when bedtime comes around. 

3. If napping is a habit you cannot break, set a wake-up routine 

Sometimes daytime naps are such an ingrained habit—they can't be avoided. If that is the case, wake the individual slowly, then introduce some form of activity to keep them active and engaged.

4. Avoid caffeine consumption after mid-afternoon 

Coffee, colas and other caffeinated beverages can prevent healthy sleep, especially when consumed close to bedtime. If your loved one is used to drinking caffeinated beverages in the evening, slowly switch them over to plain water or other caffeine-free alternatives. 

5. Pay attention to lighting 

Dementia patients may need a small night light to negotiate the room safely, but harsh rays will disrupt their sleeping patterns and increase disruptions. Caregivers may need to experiment with various types of lighting until they find the right one. 

6. Make sure a clock is clearly visible 

Dementia patients often lose track of time, not knowing when it is day or night. That can play havoc with their sleep/wake cycles, and this time disruption is one of the biggest causes of sleeping difficulties. A bedside clock that clearly distinguishes morning from the evening can help with these problems. 

7. Analyze medication for sleep-disrupting side effects 

Dementia patients often take a lot of medication, and some of those pills can interfere with healthy sleep. Talk to the doctor about what they are taking and what adjustments can be made to enhance healthy sleep. 

8. Prioritize a healthy diet 

The foods people eat can impact how well they sleep, so plan family meals carefully. Foods with lots of sugar or preservatives can interrupt sleep patterns, so avoid them altogether or serve them early in the day. 

9. Provide comfort and support 

When a dementia patient has a bad dream, they may be unable to tell the difference between that nightmare and the waking world. Being there to support, comfort and help them relax can make a big difference.

10. Find ways to relax 

Agitation and anxiety are two of the biggest problems dementia patients face, and those issues can be contagious. As a caregiver, you must take time for yourself, including finding effective ways to relax and unwind. 

Find the right support for your needs with Inkblot Therapy

If you're a caregiver struggling with sleep or facing additional challenges related to supporting a loved one, know that you can connect with an expert. Finding a therapist specializing in caregiver burnout and its associated symptoms can help. Inkblot Therapy makes connecting with a practitioner simple using our unique matching system. We'll direct you to a provider selection page where matches will be ranked based on effectiveness and your individual needs by answering a series of questions.

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