Can Alzheimer’s Cause Sleep Issues?

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Alzheimers and Sleep Issues

Family members providing care to aging loved ones or relatives diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are likely familiar with many of the physical and cognitive side effects of the disease. However, one common side effect that is often overlooked is changes in sleep patterns, which can grow more unpredictable as the disease progresses.

While Philadelphia Alzheimer’s care specialists do not fully understand the cause of sleep changes in seniors with Alzheimer’s, the disease’s impact on the brain causes a wide of sleep issues from the inability of fall asleep to the inability to stay asleep.

Effects on the Brain

Alzheimer’s causes shifts in the sleep-wake cycle, leaving seniors with the disease to feel drowsy and tired during the day and awake at night. In fact, studies show in the late stages of the disease, seniors may spend as much as 40 percent of the night awake and much of their time during the day sleeping. The result is around-the-clock napping rather than having periods of deep sleep, which can lead to agitation in the afternoon and evening, commonly referred to as sundowning.

Conditions like depression that occur alongside Alzheimer’s may also make it difficult for a senior to fall or stay asleep. Scientists believe the combination of Alzheimer’s and depression can negatively impact a person’s brain and cause them to feel upset or restless. Similarly, the result is that the senior may prefer to sleep or remain sedentary during the day, giving them energy to stay up through the evening.

Overcoming Sleep Issues with Alzheimer’s

If you have an aging parent or loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s and has trouble sleeping, here are a few suggestions for how to promote a good night’s rest:

  • Encourage Daily ActivitiesTry to encourage your loved one to participate in scheduled daily activities. Doing so can keep the mind active and can also tire your loved one physically so that they are more ready for sleep when the evening comes.
  • Look into Light TherapyLight therapy has been shown to help some seniors with Alzheimer’s, exposing them to natural light while inside, to better help the body and the brain decipher the difference between night and day.
  • Create a Nighttime RoutineCreating a calming nighttime routine can help your loved one prepare for sleep. Limit caffeinated beverages, make sure your loved one uses the restroom, play soft music and be sure the temperature of the room is comfortable.

If your loved one has trouble sleeping at night or finds it difficult to complete other activities of daily living as the result of Alzheimer’s, visit our website at or call us directly at 215-645-4663. We are a trusted and local provider of Alzheimer’s care with highly trained Alzheimer’s caregivers who are available twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Request a complimentary, no-obligation consultation today!


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