Many older adults struggle to get a good night’s rest, and those with Alzheimer’s disease often face additional challenges. The reasons behind the excessive sleep disturbances experienced by many people with dementia are not yet fully understood, though researchers in the general medical community are still exploring the possible ways in which Alzheimer’s affects the brain and alters sleep patterns. Scientists believe a decreased production of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone, may be at play.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and you’re finding that you sleep too much during the day or not enough at night, there are some steps you can take to improve your sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) so you can wake up each morning feeling well-rested, refreshed, and ready to face the day.
Establish and Maintain a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. One of the best ways to regulate your circadian rhythm is to develop healthy sleep habits, which will help your mind and body get into a good sleep routine. Choose a bedtime and a wake-up time that will provide you with an ample opportunity for plenty of rest. Be sure to follow your schedule every day, including weekends.
Balance Your Daily Activities
The best time to engage in stimulating activities—such as exercising, showering, running errands, traveling to appointments, dining out, and spending time with family members and friends—is late morning through mid-day. Reserve the evening for winding down before bed with soothing activities, such as taking a bath, reading, meditating, journaling, and listening to music.
Nix the Catnaps and Mid-Day Siestas
If possible, limit napping or avoid it altogether. While it might seem restful, sleeping during the day actually has the opposite effect—it reinforces poor sleep-wake patterns and will make it more difficult for you to fall and stay asleep at night.
See the Light
Natural light is known to be an effective regulator of circadian rhythm. Spending some time outside in the sunshine each day (even as little as 30 minutes) can help reset your internal body clock and get your sleep patterns back on track. Additionally, some studies show that light therapy may improve insomnia symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s.
Get and Stay Active
Engaging in physical activity during the day can help you sleep better at night. If you take a walk or exercise outdoors, you can benefit from energy exertion and natural light exposure, both of which may improve your sleep.
Time Your Medications
If taken late in the day, some medications commonly prescribed to Alzheimer’s patients can interfere with nighttime rest. If you use medications, talk with a doctor about the ideal time to take them to promote healthy and consistent sleep.
Turn to DispatchHealth
If you’re living with Alzheimer’s and having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, waking up too early in the morning, or getting poor quality sleep in general, you can receive in-home care from DispatchHealth. During World Alzheimer’s Month and always, we are committed to promoting the health and well-being of our patients with dementia, and our healthcare professionals can help you deal with your insomnia.
Contact DispatchHealth today to request a prompt, at-home visit from one of our medical teams. We’ll be glad to help you sleep better.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. Sources referenced in this article: