Tips for Improving Sleep

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If your care recipient with dementia has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider these non-pharmacologic approaches for improving sleep before or in conjunction with pharmacologic approaches.

    1. Encourage the person to use the bedroom for sleeping only. Discourage the person from staying in bed while awake, watching television, or reading.
    2. Establish a comfortable, familiar, and secure sleeping environment.
      • Make sure the person’s bed and pajamas are comfortable.
      • Maintain a comfortable temperature for the elderly, who tend to be more sensitive to cold.
      • Have extra blankets available.
      • Place security objects, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, within easy reach.
      • Make sure the room is quiet. Even quiet noises can be stressful to a person with dementia.

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  • If the person with dementia wakes up during the night, assume that s/he is disoriented and help orient and reassure her/him. Remind the person that it is time for sleeping. Find out if there is something s/he needs to help her/him go back to sleep.
  • If the person with dementia awakens upset, offer reassurance that everything is all right and that everyone is safe. Speak softly and quietly using a relaxed tone. Consider using distraction.
  • Bright light can help regulate the body’s biological clock (circadian rhythm). Seek sunlight exposure during the day. Bright light therapy using a light box may also help regulate the body’s biological clock.
  • Try to manage pain symptoms as much as safely possible prior to bedtime.
  • Consult a physician about any underlying health problems, pain management, and sleep problems if indicated.
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