Supporting Sleep

Individuals living with dementia and their caregivers often experience insufficient sleep, so learning how to optimize sleeping areas is crucial for their well-being.

Getting a restful night’s sleep is often difficult for people living with dementia and their caregiver. Often, our days are filled with excessive sleepiness, and at night we struggle to fall and stay asleep. As a result, our nights are usually spent wandering around the house, restless and agitated. Insufficient sleep can cause difficulties with balance and ambulation. It can also increase fall risk and create more confusion. Overall, poor sleep can impact our general health and well-being.

Here are some tips to help with sleep: 

Proper sleep starts with a relaxing, comfortable space that is used only for rest. This space should be free of distractions such as alarm clocks or TVs.

The temperature, noise and light levels are also critical. Ideally, the room temperature should be kept between 18° and 22°, and noise should be kept at under 30 decibels. Some people sleep better in silence, while others benefit from soft music, nature sounds, and a fan or white noise machine.

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Find what works for you!

Exposure to natural light during the day and low light in the evenings can also help support healthy sleep patterns. So whenever possible, block any outside light, such as streetlights.

Also, it may be helpful to avoid having ‘daytime clothing’ visible; this may cue a person's mind that it is time to get up.

General strategies for promoting sleep:

  • Ensure the person is not hungry, thirsty, in pain or needing to use the toilet.
  • Keep a regular routine.
  • Increase daytime activity and limit napping.
  • In the evening, limit stimulating activities or tasks and conversations that are upsetting or frustrating.
  • Use passive body warming 30 minutes before bed (warm baths, heating pad) or massage.
  • Ensure pyjamas and incontinence products fit correctly. 

Remember, caregivers need sleep too. Without it, you will not have the energy or patience to properly caregiver and may experience your own health issues.

Nighttime safety is of utmost importance. Because of this, caregivers often suffer from poor sleep due to fear that their loved ones will get up unsupervised.

This can be alleviated with bed alarms, house alarms and motion-sensing night lights to alert you that someone is waking up. These lights also generally create a safer environment. I encourage asking friends and family for assistance with some nighttime supervision or contact community respite.