The relationship between dementia and sleep is a common source of stress for caregivers and dementia patients. The inability to sleep, or the inability to sleep comfortably, may become difficult for both parties involved. Depending on the stage of dementia, sleep patterns can fluctuate from sleeping too little to sleeping too much.
A dementia patient who is not sleeping through the night may be experiencing the following sleep problems:
- Difficulty staying or falling asleep: This can be caused by changes in the brain, aging, problems with the sleep cycle, side effects of medication, or other factors.
- Sundown syndrome: This syndrome refers to increased confusion, agitation, anxiety, and aggression in dementia patients at night or in the early evening.
- Medicines: Some drugs used to treat dementia can cause night-time stimulation and dream disturbances.
- Brain changes: The changes that occur in a person’s brain are the fundamental reason they are unable to sleep at night when they have dementia. When an individual’s circadian rhythms are thrown off, they frequently feel confused about what time of day it is.
- Insomnia: Insomnia affects approximately half of all senior persons and can take one of three distinct forms including the following:
- Having a hard time falling asleep
- Struggling to stay asleep during the night
- Inability to return to sleep after being awakened