October 5, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille


If it feels like a senior with Alzheimer’s has completely rewritten the rules on when and how to sleep, you are not dreaming. Sleeping problems in Alzheimer’s are common. For reasons that are not yet fully understood, a number of people with dementia experience changes to their circadian rhythm, leading to sleepless nights and drowsy days.

These sleeping problems in Alzheimer’s can be difficult to manage, and the progression of the disease is one contributing factor. Damage to brain cells causes increased weakness, making everyday activities and tasks exhausting. Medication side effects from commonly-prescribed dementia treatments can further exacerbate the issue.

Why a Good Night’s Sleep Is Crucial for a Senior with Dementia

Decreased sleep quality in dementia may lead to an increase in restlessness and delusions, and can result in serious safety concerns, including the potential for a senior to wander away and become injured or lost. Not just that, but a senior who is sleepy during the day will also be less likely to engage in healthy activities, such as spending time outdoors and exercising.

And, for a busy family caregiver who also needs rest, it is typically quite a challenge to meet all of the person’s care needs during the day and throughout the night as well.

Ways To Help

Try these strategies for a senior whose sleep patterns are disrupted:

  • Talk to the physician, first of all, for a review of medications. Changing the dosage timing each day may be all it will require to make a difference.
  • Maintain a routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting caffeine, naps, and heavy meals later in the day.
  • Incorporate bedtime activities that are soothing, such as a warm bath, turning off the television and playing quiet, calming music, or reading.
  • If wandering is a concern, a wireless bed exit pad can notify you as soon as the senior gets up, so that you can assist.
  • Try placing a clock that distinguishes between nighttime and daytime near the senior’s bed.

You may want to encourage a senior to try sleeping on their side rather than the back or stomach as well. Recent reports revealed a possible link between side sleeping and more effective clearing of brain waste, such as excess beta-amyloid. Note that this study was conducted on laboratory animals and it’s unclear yet whether the results carry over to humans.

At Home Independent Living is available to help with specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Lafayette, NY and the surrounding areas. Our overnight caregivers are awake and alert, looking after the older adult’s needs throughout the night and can help you get the rest you need. Our dementia care team members are fully trained and experienced in creative, patient approaches to meeting the unique care needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Contact us online, or give us a call at (315) 579-HOME (4663) to learn more about our specialized in-home Alzheimer’s care services.