Helpful hacks to help dementia patients sleep better


Article by 

Lucy Pearson

Dementia causes changes in the brain that can have a negative impact on sleep. Someone with dementia is prone to frequent waking, troubled sleep, and extended periods of wakefulness during the night. To help them (and you) get better rest at night, read on for 5 helpful hacks that will help improve sleep for anyone with dementia.

A good night’s sleep has a wealth of benefits. As well as slowing cognitive decline, it can also help prevents falls and injuries, improves mood, and helps balance the sleep-wake cycle.

And yet, despite its myriad advantages, it’s been reported that as many as 7 out of 10 people with dementia experience sleep issues. This can lead to a vicious cycle: dementia worsens sleep, and in turn poor sleep can have a negative impact on dementia. Thankfully, scientific research has shown several ways to mitigate this harmful cycle.

Unless you’re sharing a bed with the person or checking on them throughout the night, it can be hard to tell if your loved one has trouble sleeping.

And while waking up repeatedly during the night is one example of poor sleep, troubled slumber can also mean waiting more than an hour to fall asleep.

If you’re unable to monitor you’re loved one’s sleep at night, look for symptoms including aggression, excessive daytime sleeping, increased confusion, or trouble finding the right words. If this sound familiar, there are ways in which you can help remedy someone’s sleeping patterns.

Here we share five helpful hacks to up-level your sleep.

Consider the lighting

Our minds depend on natural light to help maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Do what you can to ensure your loved one experiences light during the daytime and darkness at night. Try using a light therapy lamp in the mornings, and then in the evening, be sure the curtains or blinds are closed to help darken the room and let your loved one understand that it will soon be time to sleep.

Be active and exercise for at least 30 minutes per day

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends exercising at least 4 hours before bedtime, and researchers found that walking helps people with dementia to sleep 32% more during the night. Not only that, they also woke up an average of 5 less times during the night. Incorporating light physical activity such as walking will help ensure your loved one is tired by bedtime.

Make sure their physical needs are met before going to bed

Have they gone to the bathroom? Brushed their teeth? Is the temperature comfortable? Are their pyjamas comfortable? The focus here is to make sure they’re comfortable and in the “ready for bed” mindset when they go to bed and don’t feel the need to get up during the night.

Play relaxing sounds before and during bedtime

Listening to music has been shown to increase deep sleep and REM stages, which restore energy, relax the muscles, and lower blood pressure. Don’t stress about trying to find the perfect soothing sound for your loved one; just focus on something low and slow without lyrics. It could be music, nature sounds, or just static white noise.  

Use aromatherapy and hand rubs

Research shows that breathing in certain essential oils like lavender, sweet orange, and cedarwood help people with dementia to have longer, uninterrupted periods of sleep throughout the night. You can disperse the oils using a diffuser, by putting a few drops on a towel draped over the pillow at bedtime, or even using an aromatherapy lotion.Hand rubs, especially using aromatherapy, have been shown to help people with dementia to relax and wake up fewer times during the night.

When your loved one sleeps better, you will too.

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    1. Post

      Hi Patricia, thanks for your feedback on this. It certainly wasn’t our intention to imply a nasty trick – quite the opposite in fact! We hope you found the article useful and thanks for stopping by.

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