Understand When Alzheimer’s Disease Affects A Person’s Sleeping Habits

  • May 19, 2020 BY  Anthem Seniors
  • Anthem Senior Sanctuary

Sleep is critical to the quality of life. People with Alzheimer’s often have problems with sleeping or may experience changes in their sleep patterns. Though most individuals have changes in their sleep patterns as they age, the problems are more severe and happen more often for people with Alzheimer’s. Someone suffering from Alzheimer’s may sleep too much or not enough, or may wake up many times during the night.

Common Sleep Changes In Alzheimer’s:

  1. Difficulty sleeping
  2. Daytime napping and other shifts in the sleep-wake cycle
  3. You may notice your loved one getting agitated or restless when the sun sets, a condition called sundowning.

Contributing Medical Factors:

Medical conditions that can make sleep problems worse include depression, restless legs syndrome (unpleasant “crawling” or “tingling” sensations in the legs cause an overwhelming urge to move them), sleep apnea (a potentially serious sleep disorder in which people briefly stop breathing many times a night, resulting in poor sleep quality). If your loved one is experiencing sleep disturbances, make sure they have a thorough medical exam to identify any treatable medical illnesses that may be contributing to the problem.

When Alzheimer’s affects sleep, we should always urgently move toward problem solving to restore a good night’s sleep, for both the care recipient and for the caregiver. If you are finding it difficult to manage because of your hectic schedule, fret not as Senior Sanctuary of Anthem is there for you. We are an award-winning Anthem assisted living facility in Phoenix, AZ where our caregivers are trained in efficiently handling your loved ones’ dementia and sleeping problems.


When your spouse or parent with Alzheimer’s or other dementias doesn’t sleep well, this often means your sleep is getting compromised as well, and lack of sleep can worsen the mindset and behavior of everyone, not just those with dementia. Talking about treatments for fixing sleep problems, most doctors suggest it’s best to start with changes to lifestyle and behavior, rather than putting them on medications that can aid sleep as they can be harmful for people with Alzheimer’s, causing confusion and making them more likely to fall. You can get started with the following tips:

  1. No caffeine, alcohol and large meals before bedtime.
  2. Help the person get exercise each day, discourage naps during the day, and make sure your loved one gets enough rest at night. Discourage any form of physical activity within four hours of going to bed since being overly exhausted can increase nighttime restlessness.
  3. Activities that use more energy, schedule them early in the day.
  4. Set a quiet mood in the evening to help the person relax. The surroundings should be calm- keep lights low as bedtime approaches, reduce the noise levels and play soothing music.
  5. Create a proper bedtime routine to have both a consistent bed and wake-up time where the person has to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.
  6. Make sure his bedroom is comfortable with the temperature neither too warm, nor too cold. Use nightlights in the bedroom, bathroom and hall.

If the person you care for gets restful sleep, chances are you will too. But if you are someone who’s on duty for 24 hours, seven days a week, you know sleep can be interrupted and will not be enough to sustain your energy throughout the day. It’s advisable that you enlist help of another caregiver, family member or someone who can give you some respite throughout the week. Trade some time off with another caregiver and use the time off for quality down time.  Until and unless, you are healthy both emotionally and physically, there’s no way you will be able to provide optimal care. It’s important that you practice self-care, which includes getting enough rest at night.