Recently studies show how important eight hours of sleep are for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.
Unfortunately, dementia causes changes in the brain that can worsen sleep. A good night’s sleep slows cognitive decline, prevents falls and injuries, improves mood and helps balance the sleep-wake cycle.
Here are five evidence-based tips to help someone with dementia to get a good night’s sleep:
1. Consider lighting: Our mind depends on natural light to help maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Using a light therapy lamp in the mornings is useful since we can’t always count on sunny days. Then in the evening, be sure the curtains or blinds are closed.
2. Exercise for at least 30 minutes in the afternoon: The US Alzheimer’s Association recommends having some exercise at least four hours before bedtime. Walking, lifting weights or doing some seated exercises will help your loved one get tired.
3. Be sure physical needs are met: Have they gone to the toilet and brushed their teeth? Is the temperature comfortable? Ensure these night-time needs are met to assure they are in a ‘ready for sleep’ mindset when they actually go to bed.
4. Relaxing sounds before and during bedtime: Listening to music has been shown to increase deep sleep. Choose something low and slow without lyrics: it could be music or nature sounds. Stay away from audiobooks, podcasts or television as voices can be energised, distracted or scared by someone’s voice in the dark.
5. Aromatherapy and hand rubs: Breathing certain essential oils like lavender, sweet orange and cedarwood helps people with dementia have longer, uninterrupted sleep. Use a diffuser, or put a few drops on a towel draped over the pillow. Using an aromatherapy hand lotion before bed also helps people to relax and wake up fewer times during the night.