Sleep disturbance and night-time waking

Sleep disturbances are common for people with dementia, and often lead to carers also experiencing problems with their sleep.

A person with dementia may get up repeatedly during the night and may become disorientated when they wake. They may get dressed or try to leave the house. This can make the person tired during the day and they may sleep for long periods.

All of this can be very stressful for carers. People with dementia may not be aware that they experience any problems during the night.

How dementia can affect sleep

Dementia can affect people's sleep patterns. This is separate and different from normal age-related sleep difficulties. It can cause problems with the sleep-wake cycle and also interfere with the person's 'body clock'.

Disturbed sleep can have a negative impact on a person's wellbeing (as well as that of their sleeping partner), so strategies to improve sleep will be beneficial.

Tips for improving sleep

  • Make sure the person has plenty of daylight and activity during the day
  • Think about improving the sleeping environment. Make sure the room is a comfortable temperature and appropriately lit. If it's too light, consider blackout blinds
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol in the evening
  • Consider a clock next to the bed which shows whether it is day or night
  • If someone likes to have something to cuddle, consider a soft toy
  • Going for a walk, having a warm milky drink, or having a bath or shower before bed may help the person relax
  • Think about safety - leave a light on in the hall and toilet, consider a nightlight in the bedroom, remove any trip hazards (eg loose rugs or furniture in the way)
  • If the person wakes up at night, try gently reminding them that it's night
  • Poor mood can contribute to poor sleep. If you think the person may be depressed see your GP.
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