Minimizing Sleep Disruptions
People with Alzheimer’s Disease often have trouble sleeping through the night. There are some things we as caregivers can do to encourage uninterrupted rest.
Much like getting your loved one ready for the day, it’s important to develop a bedtime routine. If they fall asleep after an episode of confusion or agitation, their chance of waking before morning is likely to increase. Routines are essential to minimizing stress, agitation, confusion and disorientation. A standard bedtime routine may include the basics such as a nutritious meal, medication maintenance, a change of clothes and a trip to the restroom. You may also want to include one of the following types of activities to personalize their routine:
• Watch an episode of their favorite TV show
• Read a book
• Tend to the needs of pets or small children they care about
• Enjoy a cup of caffeine-free tea or coffee
• Start/complete a crossword puzzle
When considering what to include, reflect on their lifelong traditions. They will likely enjoy adopting the same types of activities. Try to begin their routine about the same time every night.
A lack of activity during the day, could cause restlessness in the evening. It is important to incorporate exercise and activity throughout the day, being careful not to wear them out too early. Consider a daily exercise routine, outings or hobbies like gardening. Discourage naps, or limit them if you can.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia need constant reassurance throughout the day and nighttime is no exception. While some will insist on an independent trip to their bedroom, others may desire company. To respect their privacy and independence offer your assistance.
Before you turn the lights out, assure them that you are available if they need anything and that you will see them in the morning to minimize concerns that they will be left alone.
Cultivate a safe and comfortable environment
To create a comfortable environment, remember the five senses. Ensure they don’t go to bed hungry, for instance, by offering a light snack before bedtime.
Is it too loud in the next room? Its it too quiet? Consider turning down your television set and hush small children at play. Or if they prefer noise, offer soothing music to help them relax.
Are the blankets on the bed too heavy? Is it warm enough? Are their pajamas too confining? Observe your loved one’s reactions to their environment and try correcting the things that pose frustrations.
Make sure hallways and rooms are equipped with night lights to help navigate through the darkness. Complete darkness could increase the chances of falls or injuries, but it may also spark fear and confusion if they can’t see their surroundings.
Investing in a monitor will allow you to observe your loved one’s activities in the middle of the night. These devices can help to minimize the number of times you intervene and increase their chances of getting back to sleep. If you need to intervene, gently remind them that it’s not time to get up and help them back to bed. Again, confirm that they’re comfortable and reassure them that you will be there when they wake in the morning.
Medication & Doctor’s Visits
Though you may want to delay medication as long as possible, sometimes there are underlying issues that need temporary attention. An early visit to the doctor could reveal unforeseen issues that your loved one may not be able to communicate.
Disruptions in sleep patterns can be a result of a urinary tract infection, for instance. Medical attention could minimize, if not eliminate multiple sleep disruptions. A lack of sleep could also indicate necessary changes to current medications he/she may be taking. Involve the professionals in these decisions to encourage uninterrupted sleep.
Remember, there is no guarantee to get them to sleep through the night. But you will rest better, knowing you’ve done what you can by keeping these suggestions in mind. And once you find something that works, be flexible, knowing their preferences can change as the disease progresses.
Contributed by Leah Bigham