Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life activities. It’s a progressive condition that affects memory, behavior, and thinking. A common behavioral symptom in people with dementia is sleep disturbances, which can lead to sleeping a lot.
But it’s important to remember that just because a senior is sleeping more than they usually do doesn’t mean that they are getting the rest that their body needs. And unfortunately, medication isn’t always the answer for helping a senior get “better” sleep.
This is where having a caregiver who understands how dementia can affect an individual’s sleep quality can be beneficial. A community that offers memory care services will typically have caregivers who can help support a senior with dementia in everything from their diet to their physical activity to lessen negative effects like sleep disturbances and other dementia symptoms.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur when the brain cells are damaged or destroyed. The condition leads to a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory, language, and problem-solving skills, which interferes with daily life activities. There are several types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and mixed dementia.
Causes of Dementia
Researchers believe that dementia is primarily caused by damage to or changes in the brain. How these changes occur can vary depending on the type of dementia a senior develops.
While there is no cure for dementia, there are several treatment options that can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals living with the condition. Some of these treatment options include medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, and support from family members and caregivers.
Do People with Dementia Sleep a Lot?
Sleeping “a lot” shouldn’t be confused with quality, restful sleep. A senior with dementia may have difficulty staying asleep for the entire night. This is especially common in the later stages of dementia. When a senior cannot get the rest they need during the night because of these sleep disturbances, it can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, which results in them needing naps throughout the day.
It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to become more restless and agitated in the evening, a condition known as sundowning. This can result in further sleep disturbance and difficulty falling or staying asleep. People with dementia may also experience a phenomenon called “resistance to going to bed,” which means they may stay up later and wake up earlier than they should.
What Should You Do if Someone You Love Is Sleeping a Lot?
It’s essential to note that people with dementia may also have medical factors contributing to the changes in their sleep patterns. Some things that can result in sleep disturbances include:
- Depression: Depression isn’t uncommon in seniors, and it can be especially common in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. A senior may be more inclined to spend more time sleeping if they’re depressed. This excessive sleeping can negatively affect a person’s sleep-wake cycle.
- Restless legs syndrome: This condition can cause seniors to experience an itching, pulling, or crawling sensation in their legs. It can give them the overwhelming urge to move them, which can prevent them from getting an adequate amount of sleep.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): OSA is a common condition that can affect the quality of an individual’s sleep. Essentially, a person stops breathing momentarily throughout the night, causing their brain to wake up. Studies have found that sleep apnea, specifically OSA, is more common in seniors.
If you have a loved one or you’re caring for a senior who begins sleeping more than usual, it’s important that a medical professional rules out some of these possible contributing factors. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a medication to help a senior sleep better. However, this is not typically the first choice because studies have shown that medications don’t necessarily improve sleep quality and could contribute to other health risks like falls.
Non-Medication Treatment for Sleep Changes
There are a few things that you as a caregiver can do to help a senior get more restful sleep:
- Maintain a consistent schedule of meal times, waking up, and going to sleep.
- Encourage them to get sunlight exposure in the morning to help regulate their circadian rhythm.
- Make sure they are comfortable—room temperature, bed comfort, etc.
- Encourage daily exercise.
- Encourage a good bedtime routine—minimize screen time, read a book, listen to calming music, have herbal tea, and do other non-stimulating activities.
Find Support in All Stages of Life
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to senior care. That’s why it’s important to seek out a community that can offer a well-rounded and personal touch to the care it provides. For example, just because an individual has never had an issue with sleep doesn’t mean they can’t develop one. So, living in a community that can adjust their care to maintain a senior’s quality of life is important.
Contact us at The Legacy at South Plains if you or a loved one are considering a senior community in Lubbock. We’re happy to give a community tour to help you decide if our care options are right for your loved one.