Caregiver Tips – How (and How Not) to Deal With Alzheimer’s Sleep Disturbances

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Bedtime can be an extremely challenging part of the day for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Those with Alzheimer’s may sleep all day and have trouble sleeping at night. They may wake up throughout the night feeling scared and disoriented, and prone to falls, accidents, and wandering. Caregivers find themselves exhausted, frustrated, and wondering how to help their loved one sleep through the night.

The video below, produced by the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, offers help and tips for caregivers. It recreates a common issue – a man whose mother sleeps all day, and then stays up all night, disturbing the sleep of the rest of the family. He is at his wit’s end and needs help. The video shows two scenarios – one where he responds badly and ineffectively to his mother, and one where he helps the situation.

The first scenario shows his mother loudly picking out clothes in the middle of the night, because she thinks she’s late for work. He goes into her room, confronting her angrily, berating her for keeping everyone awake. He exasperatedly tells her that it’s 2 AM and that she hasn’t worked in 20 years. This has no effect on her activity. She remains upset and keeps believing she has to pick out work clothes, and he goes back to bed frustrated and angry.

Photo: YouTube/UCLA Health

Photo: YouTube/UCLA Health

In the second scenario, the man again finds his mom going through her closet in the middle of the night. He calmly and pleasantly asks what she’s doing, and if she needs help. She lets him know that she’s worried about being late for work, and he kindly tells her that it’s only 2 AM and she can sleep longer before getting ready for work. He then distracts her by suggesting a warm glass of milk to help them both sleep, and she happily agrees, set to go back to bed soon.

The examples above illustrate how important it is to remain calm, patient, and loving. It is often difficult to feel positive emotions when sleep-deprived in the middle of the night, but the caregiver’s attitude can greatly influence the behavior of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Photo: YouTube/UCLA Health

Photo: YouTube/UCLA Health

Other sleep tips presented in the video include maintaining a regular schedule for meals and bedtime, exercising early in the day, limiting naps to thirty minutes once a day, keeping busy during the day, and avoiding stimulants such as coffee and nicotine. These tips, plus many more offered in the video, could help you and your loved one finally get a restful night’s sleep.

Take a look!

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TC currently lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest, bellied up to a sun lamp. In addition to writing, she enjoys photography and estate sales, and is the proud mother to an ever-growing collection of cacti.
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