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5 Approaches to Sleep Regulation for Someone with Severe Dementia

Daytime “wake cues” and a bedtime routine can help your loved one get better sleep.


This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

It is not unusual for a person with severe dementia to stay awake more during night-time hours and to start sleeping more in the daytime. Reversing day and night sleep habits can upend schedules for everyone who lives with the person. 

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If your loved one is experiencing such sleep changes, the following approaches may be beneficial:

1. Let your loved one’s physician know about any sleep habit changes. This will allow you to rule out causes other than the progression of dementia (such an infection or depression), since this change doesn’t happen with everyone.

2. Establish a solid bedtime routineDoing the same thing every night, like drinking herbal tea, listening to soft music, etc., can relay “sleep cues” even if your loved one has slept earlier.

3. Cut down on daytime napping with “wake cues”. Try keeping shades open, for example, and letting the phone ring several times before you answer it so that the environment is not extremely quiet.

4. Don’t allow napping in bed. Encourage shorter naps by having your loved one rest on a couch or recliner. If you have paid caregivers, ask them to strip the bed in the morning and make it up again at bedtime.

5. See to it that your loved one gets exposure to daylight. It is typical for someone with late-stage dementia to be more bedbound and housebound. Because exposure to morning light is an important factor in regulating the body’s internal clock, head out for a walk together, even if your loved one is in a wheelchair, or relax on a sun-filled porch.

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