December 2, 2010

Most people can do anything required of them — if only they can get a decent night’s sleep.  If your loved one with dementia is up several times during the night, this can be the most difficult part of being a caregiver.  There is no magic cure for this situation, but there are several things you can try (often in conjunction with each other) that may improve your life.

  1. Make certain the dementia patient has NO CAFFEINE whatsoever after mid-afternoon.  If this doesn’t have an effect, move the “no caffeine” rule back to lunch, then to breakfast if lunch doesn’t work, or perhaps to no caffeine at all.  Remember many teas have more caffeine than coffee.  Many soft drinks also have caffeine.  If your loved one is accustomed to drinking coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages all day, substitute the decaf version.
  2. Don’t feed the patient high sugar foods (desserts, candy, non-diet soft drinks, etc.) in the evening.  Sugar can agitate people.  Remember that bread and other carbohydrates turn into sugars in the bloodstream, so limit these, also.
  3. Try not to allow the patient to sleep during the day.  Too much sleep during the day means less sleep at night.
  4. Keep the patient physically and mentally active.  Added activity will tire the patient and prepare her for a good night’s sleep, plus it will keep her from sleeping during the day.
  5. Given before bedtime, warm milk with a little real vanilla extract added may make the patient drowsy.  There are many decaffeinated teas available that are recommended for bedtime use.
  6. When the patient is asleep, does he move frequently?  If so, he may have Restless Leg Syndrome.  If he snores, he may have sleep apnea.  Both of these can keep someone from going into a deep sleep and cause them awaken them numerous times during the night.  If this is the case with your loved one, there are lifestyle changes and treatments that may help.  Talk to you doctor about a sleep study.
  7. If these suggestions don’t work, or don’t work well enough, talk to you doctor about an over-the-counter or prescription sleep medication.

As stated in previous blogs, caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint.  You must take care of yourself (including getting enough sleep) if you want to finish the race.

Do you have things that have helped your loved one get a good night’s sleep?  Let us hear from you!

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