Problems with sleeping are a common occurrence for people with dementia.
Some people sleep during the day and are awake and restless at night. Some are no longer able to tell the difference between night and day, while others are simply not as active as they used to be and consequently need less sleep.
It is important to try to recognize what may be causing the problem – is it the environment, the dementia or the medications used? This will help to decide on which strategies may be helpful.
Some families and caregivers find that keeping a log or diary may help them see the pattern of behavior that may be developing, enabling the cause of the problem to be pinpointed.
Physiological or Medical Causes
- The brain damage caused by the dementia has affected the 'biological clock' in the brain, which directs our sleep patterns
- Illness such as angina, congestive heart failure, diabetes or ulcers
- Pain caused by such things as arthritis
- A urinary tract infection which causes a frequent need to urinate
- 'Restless legs' or leg cramps which can indicate a metabolic problem
- Depression which causes early morning wakening and an inability to go back to sleep
- Side effects of medication such as diuretics
- Sleep apnea and snoring
- A need for less sleep as a person gets older
- The bedroom may be too hot or too cold
- Poor lighting may cause a person with dementia to become disoriented
- They may not be able to find the bathroom
- Changes in the environment, such as moving to a new home or having to be hospitalized, can cause disorientation and confusion.
- Going to bed too early
- Sleeping too much during the day
- Over-tiredness causing tenseness and an inability to fall asleep
- Insufficient exercise so that they do not feel tired
- Too much caffeine or alcohol
- Feeling hungry
- Agitation following an upsetting situation
- Disturbing dreams
First, eliminate as many of the possible FIRST LINE causes that you can. Next, integrate Alternatives and record what works and what doesn’t.
In the case of Psychological or Medical causes, here are some FIRST LINE suggestions:
- Discuss with the doctor stopping or changing diuretic medication if you feel this may be contributing to the problem
- Arrange a medical check-up to identify and treat physical symptoms
- Discuss with the doctor whether sedatives may be contributing to the problem
- Ask the doctor whether an assessment for depression may be necessary
- Ask the doctor about possible side-effects of medication
In some situations, the doctor may decide to use tranquilizing medications or sleep medications. While these may be helpful, consider first the fact that both types of medications can have negative side effects such as increased confusion and depression.
Pain at bedtime is another issue that is often treated with an analgesic but adding yet another pharmaceutical can also be avoided.
Keep reading and check the Alternative Solutions Section of this Article.
In the case of Environmental causes, here are a few FIRST LINE suggestions:
- Keep the environment as consistent as possible
- Check whether the person is too hot or too cold on wakening. Dementia may affect their internal thermostat
- Shadows, glare or poor lighting may contribute to agitation and hallucinations, so provide adequate lighting
- Not recognizing self or others in a bedroom mirror may cause confusion. Moving the mirror may be helpful
- Night lights might help cut down on confusion at night and may assist them to find the bathroom
- If finding the bathroom is a problem, a commode by the bed might help
- Make sure the bed and bedroom are comfortable. Familiar objects may help with orientation
- Avoid having day-time clothing in view at night as this may indicate that it is time to get up
Food and drink
- Cut down on caffeine (coffee, cola, tea, chocolate) during the day and eliminate altogether after 5pm
- Cut down on alcohol and discuss with the doctor any possible interaction between alcohol and medication
- If you think the person may be hungry at night, try a light snack just before bed or when they first wake up
- Try not to do any tasks that may be upsetting in the late afternoon
- If the person is refusing to go to bed, try offering alternatives such as sleeping on the couch
- If the person wanders at night, consider allowing this, but check that the house is safe
- Try a softly playing radio beside the bed
- Gently remind the person that it is night-time and time to sleep
Problems with sleeping or late evening agitation are often a stage in dementia that eventually passes. Many people with dementia sleep more during the latter stages of the condition.
Sleep problems are among the most difficult symptoms of dementia. Families and caregivers must be able to get adequate sleep themselves. Try to ensure regular periods of rest and regular breaks for yourself, as well as for the person with dementia.
The Alternative Suggestions:
There are two specific Alternatives I am recommending. Not only will the dementia sufferer benefit but the Caregiver will find exceptional benefits as well.
- Using essential oils to calm, promote sleep, alleviate pain and bring balance back into the daily / nighttime routines is by far one of the most natural and effective things to use.
- I am adding Music / Sound Therapy suggestions to this article as well simply because of how the specific frequencies affect brain function.
Exercise, Grounding and Balance:
Once all these issues have been checked and resolved, consider exercise or the lack of it as a possibility.
- Try to make sure that they are getting enough exercise.
- Try taking one or two walks each day.
- If they are not independently mobile and confined to a wheelchair, by all means just getting them out into fresh air helps to ease and relax mind and body.
Find a place where there is grass and each day, preferably morning and late afternoon, go to this place and take off your shoes…yep yours and theirs! Allow the bare feet to sit on the grass or dirt. Walk around if you can.
The earth resonates at a frequency that is highly beneficial to the body helping to ground and balance the body’s systems. This action impacts the sense of touch, sight and smell. The smell of fresh mown grass, rain, flowers and even dirt, to many, can be relaxing and grounding.
Connecting to nature is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
To Calm and Aid sleep or to Calm and improve Energy and Focus:
Review the article on my blog regarding Touch Therapy / Massage Therapy for pictorial information on hand massages.
First, determine what you want to accomplish by using this therapy. Certainly for sleep, you would use this in the evenings or prior to an afternoon nap. To improve energy and focus, use this in the mornings or mid day depending on what you want to accomplish.
I would suggest scheduling a hand massage in the morning before an outside jaunt or just before an afternoon nap and most definitely in the evenings before bedtime.
Try a back rub before bed or during wakeful periods
Using this as a Preventative Measure helps to reset the body’s clock and get sleep patterns back on track.
The following is a list of Essential Oils that will serve to help reset the body’s timer for appropriate sleep cycles. Some should only be used at night and others during the day.
Please NOTE: Not all essential oils are alike and most purchased in stores contain chemicals that can be detrimental to topical applications and cannot be ingested. ALWAYS check the labels. Look for Nutritional Information on the label. The Essential Oils I have recommended here are safe, effective and are Certified Therapeutic Grade. Most are ingestible…use them for teas or for cooking. To read more about these oils, please click here:. If you have ANY questions about the safety or efficacy of these oils, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com .
ESSENTIAL OILS TO CONSIDER:
The following Essential Oils can be used topically (hand or foot massage) and Aromatically (in a diffuser).
DIFFUSING– this provides greater coverage and at night will help to induce longer periods of sleep.
If using TOPICALLY, always use a carrier oil. I recommend Fractionated Coconut Oil as your carrier oil and a ratio of 5 drops carrier oil to 3 drops Essential Oil. (unless otherwise noted)
- Lavender – will calm but may also relax to a point of going to sleep. You may want to relegate Lavender to night time use or if they do take a nap during the day, before nap to promote deeper sleep.
- Balance – Excellent for daytime use and will promote improved physical balance as well as mental balance
- AromaTouch: This is an exceptional oil and most assuredly a mild relaxer but also aids in eliminating pain. This can be used in the daytime and at night as an analgesic in place of aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin and Tylenol. Side Note for Parkinson’s sufferers: Mix 3 drops Aroma Touch to 5 drops Fractionated Coconut Oil and spread down the spine starting at the base of the neck down to the tail bone. I have seen up to 8 hours relief from tremors.
- Serenity – This Is my absolute favorite for nighttime use. Serenity promotes deep relaxing sleep
- Lemongrass - Fresh lemon grass is often added to teas or lemonade to promote relaxation and calmness. The scent can relieve anxiety and promote restful sleep among seniors with dementia. Try pairing lemongrass with other citrus scents like sweet orange, and diffuse the essential oils to boost your loved one’s energy levels and mood.
- Clary Sage – Clary Sage is beneficial for seniors with dementia. Added to a diffuser, Clary Sage promotes better cognitive function and enhances mood. You can also blend sage with other essential oils like Peppermint and / or Rosemary to create an herb-based scent that boosts memory and promotes a calmer, more optimistic mood.
- Bergamot - Bergamot is a warm floral scent that reduces anxiety and stress and encourages a calmer, more relaxed mood. The flowers are often added to tea, including classic Earl Grey blends. When using the essential oil, add one to three drops to the bath, a diffuser, or an ounce of carrier oil to provide the soothing benefits.
- Chamomile - Dried chamomile flowers are well known for their pain relieving and stress reducing properties. In aromatherapy, chamomile essential oil offers the same calming properties. Add a few drops of chamomile essential oil to 5 drops of carrier oil, and use the blend for hand massages to enjoy the calming benefits of chamomile.
- YlangYlang - Ylang ylang reduces anxiety, boosts mood, and promotes restful sleep, making it an excellent addition to your loved one’s bedtime routine. Use ylang ylang in a diffuser immediately before bed to help your loved one fall asleep easily. If your loved one is agitated, a short hand massage with ylang ylang essential oil in a carrier oil base can calm his or her mood.
- Rosemary - Rosemary has been found to stimulate memory, making it one of the best essential oils to incorporate into your loved one’s aromatherapy blends. Combine rosemary with peppermint to stimulate cognitive function and increase energy, or blend rosemary with lavender to calm your loved one.
- Peppermint - Peppermint is an invigorating scent that also boosts cognitive function while encouraging feelings of calmness. Diffuse peppermint essential oil in the morning to begin the day with relaxed energy, or diffuse the scent in the afternoon if your loved one begins to feel tired or agitated.
Try these remedies as your analgesic before resorting to sleep inducing pharmaceuticals.
There are different types of pain: Joint, Muscle, Nerve and Bone.
Find out where the pain is located
Determine if it is Joint, Nerve, Muscle or Bone Pain and use the following combination of Essential Oils based on what is needed.
PAIN RUB: (Joint / Nerve / Muscle)
Mix 3 drops Fractionated Coconut Oil with 1 drop AromaTouch in the palm of your hand and rub gently on the affected area.
Next, put 2 drops Serenity into the palm of your hand and rub over the affected area layering on top of the Aroma Touch.
(Additional carrier oil is not needed with the second layer unless the skin is exceptionally dry and it quickly absorbed the first layer.)
A PRE-MIXED ROLLER BALL FOR PAIN ANYTIME: (Joint / Nerve Bone)
A great addition to any medicine cabinet is a pre-mix roller ball called ‘Past Tense.”Originally designed to relieve headaches and neck and head tension (which is does), I have found this particular Essential Oil blend to be HIGHLY effective on joint, nerve and bone pains. Just roll on the affected area and gently rub in!
NIGHTTIME PAIN: (Joint, Muscle, Nerve, Bone)
Mix 3 drops carrier oil with 3 drops Lavender and 3 drops Peppermint. Rub on affected area
- Herbal teas and warm milk may be helpful
- Soothing high frequency music (these can be downloaded free from You Tube) ie:
***If using a type of high frequency music, it is best to use headphones or earbuds to gain the greatest benefit from the frequencies.
The goal is to establish a familiar daily routine that will aid in emotional and physical comfort and when the routine is disrupted for any reason, any negative emotional and physical response will be minor and limited. The use of Essential Oils and Music as two primary Alternative solutions WILL provide balance, structure, and enhanced emotional, mental, physical and spiritual comfort.
If you have ANY questions about the safety or efficacy of these oils, issues not listed here or other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you are asking for information, please include as many details about what you are seeking information for. The more I have to work with, the better the information I can give you. Also, remember to please include your email address.
COMING UP LATER THIS MONTH:
Sound and Vibration Healing and the Research Behind its Success.