Poor sleep aggravates dementia and increases Alzheimer’s risk. Sleeping well restores and refreshes the brain. Learn to get a good night’s sleep to prevent and treat dementia. Check out these tips.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep to Prevent and Treat Alzheimer’s
There are many things you can do to help you get a good night’s sleep. Here are some ideas.
- Follow a regular schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Napping in the late afternoon or evening may keep you awake at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. About 30-45 minutes before bedtime each night, do the same things so your body will know that it’s time to sleep. Some people watch television, read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath.
- Your bedroom should be dark, not too hot or too cold, and as quiet as possible.
- Be sure you have a comfortable mattress, a pillow you like, and enough blankets for the season.
- Exercise at regular times each day but not within 3 hours of your bedtime.
- Make an effort to get outside in the sunlight each day.
- Be careful about when and how much you eat. Large meals close to bedtime may keep you awake, but a light snack in the evening can help you get a good night’s sleep.
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, cola, and hot chocolate) is a stimulant that can keep you awake.
- Drink less liquid in the evening. Waking up to go to the bathroom and turning on a bright light breaks up your sleep.
- Remember that alcohol won’t help you sleep. Even small amounts make it harder to stay asleep.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping. After turning off the light give yourself about 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you’re still awake and not drowsy, get out of bed. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
Try to set up a safe and restful place to sleep. Make sure there are smoke alarms on each floor and lock up the house before going to bed. Other ideas for a safe night’s sleep are:
- Keep a telephone with emergency phone numbers by your bed.
- Have a good lamp that turns on easily within reach.
- Put a glass of water next to the bed.
- Use nightlights in the bathroom and hall.
- Don’t smoke, especially in bed.
- Remove area rugs so you won’t trip if you get out of bed in the middle of the night.
- Don’t fall asleep with a heating pad on; it may burn.
Sleep & Dementia — A Special Problem
Alzheimer’s and other dementias often change a person’s sleeping habits. For example, some people with Alzheimer’s disease sleep too much; others don’t sleep enough. Some people wake up many times during the night; others wander or yell at night. The person with Alzheimer’s disease isn’t the only one who loses sleep. Caregivers may have sleepless nights, leaving them tired and out of sorts.
If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, there are steps you can take to protect his or her nighttime safety. Try the following:
- Put a gate across the stairs.
- Make sure the floor is clear of objects.
- Lock up any medicines.
- Put grab bars in the bathroom.
- Put a portable toilet in the bedroom.
There are some tricks to help you fall asleep. You don’t really have to count sheep—just try counting slowly to 100. Some people find that playing mental games makes them sleepy—tell yourself it’s 5 minutes before you have to get up and you’re just trying to get a few extra winks. Other people find that relaxing their body puts them to sleep. You might start with your toes, and tell yourself that your toes are relaxed and sleepy. Work your way up the rest of the body saying the same words. You may drift off to sleep before getting to the top of your head.
If you feel tired and unable to do the things you usually do for more than 2-3 weeks, see a doctor. Sleep problems can cause you to feel bad, but there are changes you can make to get a better night’s sleep.
National Institute of Aging, U.S. National Institutes of Health
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