Dementia patients often have trouble sleeping through the night. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as anxiety, pain, or medication side effects. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips for getting a good night’s rest if you are living with dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a progressive loss of brain function that causes memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive functions to deteriorate. Dementias come in many forms and are most often seen in older people. dementia Is characterized by faulty brain cell functioning and the death of more cells than normal in individuals without dementia. There is no known cure for dementia, but there are treatments that can help reduce its development rate.

Sleep disturbances are common in those with dementia, and sleep deprivation may exacerbate or contribute to other dementia symptoms. Caregivers report disturbed sleep to be one of the most distressing signs of dementia. As an important element of dementia care, detecting and treating sleep problems relieves stress for patients and caregivers while potentially slowing cognitive deterioration.

How does dementia change sleep patterns?

The circadian rhythm is a set of physical and psychological processes that controls our sleep-wake cycle by responding to cues in our environment. People who have dementia have fundamental disruptions in their circadian rhythm, which makes it more difficult for them to obtain good sleep on a regular basis.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the part of our brain that acts as our internal timer and responds to cues such as light to signal when we should be awake. The SCN contains damaged cells and diminished cellular activity in people with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. As a consequence of this malfunction, patients are frequently unable to follow a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle and instead sleep excessively during the day and sleep very little at night.

Additionally, dementia is linked to sleep structure changes. Our bodies go through a cycle of three stages of sleep while we sleep: light (stages 1 and 2), deep (stage 3 or slow-wave) sleep, and dream (also known as rapid eye movement or REM) sleep. Slow-wave slumber and REM sleep are vital components of how our body and mind heal themselves. People with dementia spend less time in slow-wave slumber and more time in the first two stages of sleep. This decrease in deep slumber and REM sleep may get worse as dementia progresses.

Normal sleep pattern changes in older age

sleep apnea

Healthy aging individuals have been reported to experience a variety of sleep modifications. Bedtimes and wake times moving7 to an earlier hour, taking longer to fall asleep once in bed, having disrupted sleep, sleeping fewer hours per night, and spending less time in slow-wave and REM sleep are just a few examples. Although these changes mimic some of the sleep problems seen in persons with dementia, dementia patients’ sleep patterns tend to be more dramatic and disruptive.

What sleep disorders are common in people with dementia?

Sleep problems are common among persons with dementia. The following sleep disorders are most prevalent among older individuals, but they occur at even higher rates in those suffering from dementia.

  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): The term restless legs syndrome refers to a persistent and unpleasant sensation that makes it difficult for the sufferer to sleep. Restless legs syndrome affects about 9 million people in the United States alone, according to one estimate. People with Lewy body dementia are prone to RLS.
  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD): PLMD is a neurological disorder that causes excessive arm and/or leg movements at night. Many people with PLMD also have RLS.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): OSA, which stands for obstructive sleep apnea, is a condition in which the airways close during sleep and cause brief interruptions in breathing. OSA affects about 40% of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Having OSA also raises one’s chances of acquiring dementia.
  • REM sleep behavior disorder: The condition known as REM sleep behavior disorder causes people to act out their dreams, which can sometimes be deadly. It is most often seen in persons with Lewy body dementia and may also be the first sign of this illness.
  • Depression: Depression can cause a number of problems, including insomnia and other sleep disorders. Depression is found in a large proportion of persons with dementia, which suggests that it will get worse as the disease progresses to more severe stages.

Other Sleep Issues in People With Dementia

The term “sundowning” refers to a pattern of behavior that occurs in dementia patients in which they become increasingly agitated later in the day and at night. Confusion, worry, aimless wandering, and yelling are all symptoms of sundowning. When these behaviors continue into the night, sundowning can exacerbate sleeplessness and other sleep issues. The circadian rhythm adjustments that occur with dementia might be a source of this phenomenon, as well as tiredness, sadness, and pain.

If they are unable to sleep, people with dementia may talk, shout, or sob throughout the night. Some dementia patients have a propensity to walk away from their homes late at night, which is quite hazardous. In individuals with REM sleep behavior disorder, shouting, grasping, jumping, and other acts are linked to dream enactment during sleep.

What to do when someone with dementia has sleeping problems 

If a person’s sleep issues have been going on for more than a few weeks, speak to their doctor or nurse.

You may also speak with the community mental health nurse. A physician or nurse will try to figure out whether the sleeplessness is caused by anything that can be treated with medications or other therapies, such as boosting pain medication levels, alleviating anxiety, or treating urinary issues. Keeping a sleep diary may really assist a clinician in determining what’s going on.

Sleep disorders in dementia, for example, may necessitate the assistance of a specialist, such as a consultant geriatrician or old age psychiatrist. A specialist can be referred to by the GP. This might take some time, so try to visit the GP as soon as possible.

It is not advised to use a sleeping pill when someone has dementia. If the sleep problem is severe and non-drug therapies have not worked, however, some doctors may suggest it for a short time.

If a person uses sleep aids, they are more likely to be confused and fall over the next day. Take extra care when caring for them.

Supporting a person with dementia and sleep disturbance

dementia symptoms

Sleeping difficulties are more common and severe as dementia advances. They can occur on a daily basis and last for an extended period of time. The person with dementia and their carer may be affected by the increasing tiredness.

The individual will require more assistance over time, especially if your own sleep is frequently disrupted. If the person you care for is awake at night frequently, you may be able to hire a night sitter.

This is a carer who will look after the person with dementia at night, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. A live-in or visiting carer, or in residential care, may be needed for someone with dementia and significant sleep issues.

The Role of Medication

Medication is often considered a last-ditch therapy for persons with dementia. Sleep aids have the potential to cause confusion, sedation, and falls or harm. Before administering a sleep aid to a person with dementia, consult your doctor.


At what stage do dementia patients sleep a lot?

Dementia patients sleep a lot as the disease progresses. This can be from early stages to end-of-life dementia.

Is insomnia linked to dementia?

There is a link between dementia and insomnia. Dementia patients can have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting restful sleep.

What meds help dementia patients sleep?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some dementia patients may benefit from sleep aids, while others may not. Always consult with a doctor before giving any medication to someone with dementia.

Is insomnia associated with Alzheimer's?

Yes, insomnia is often associated with Alzheimer’s dementia. Up to 50% of people with Alzheimer’s have difficulty sleeping. This can be due to factors such as anxiety, pain, and discomfort.

Is insomnia a memory loss?

No, insomnia is not a memory loss. However, dementia patients with sleep problems may have more trouble remembering things. This is because lack of sleep can lead to fatigue and confusion.

Conclusion thoughts

In dementia, sleep disturbances are more common and severe as dementia advances. The individual will require more assistance over time, especially if your own sleep is frequently disrupted. If the person you care for is awake at night frequently, you may be able to hire a night sitter. This is a carer who will look after the person with dementia at night, allowing you to get a good night’s rest yourself! Whether it’s someone living in or visiting from another town that stays overnight on occasion or some sort of live-in care arrangement – find out what works best for both parties’ needs and schedule before things escalate into something worse than just poor sleeping habits.”