Sleep disorders are a common problem in Alzheimer’s disease. Because sleep is such an important aspect of overall good health, it’s important to find ways of improving sleep in Alzheimer’s patients in order to reduce the risk of other health complications.
You may be wondering, why Alzheimer’s disease and sleep disorders coexist. It mainly has to do with Alzheimer’s disrupting a patient’s sleep-wake cycle. At night, patients are often restless, and during the day they are fatigued and lethargic. The sleeping troubles get worse as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Over time, daytime naps begin to take the place of the overnight restorative sleep.
Sleep troubles can worsen if the patient has another underlying sleep problem such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or depression.
In Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers may notice that the patient sleeps more during the day, has difficulty falling asleep at night, or wakes up frequently throughout the night, prefers to sleep during the day rather than at night, or becomes agitated or restless as the sun goes down – this is known as sundowning.
Some researchers speculate that Alzheimer’s disease damages the brain and causes changes in the way it controls when to sleep and when to be awake.
There are both medical and non-medical methods to promote sleep in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Doctors may prescribe sleep aids to promote sleep, but lifestyle changes can also work to promote sleep among patients.
Here are some other tips to help Alzheimer’s disease patients get a better sleep at night:
By following these tips and working with the patient’s doctor, caregivers can have the patient sleep better and longer throughout the night rather than tossing and turning.