During these unsettled and unsettling times, many of us are losing sleep over the ramifications of shutdowns, lockdowns, masks, social distancing, financial woes, empty supermarket shelves, disease, and whatever other worries we hear about or even manufacture ourselves.

Although the average person can lose sleep for various reasons, research has shown that Alzheimer’s patients have a greater tendency to experience altered sleep patterns that can keep them awake at night. It seems Alzheimer’s affects the brain in some unknown way.

Dementia patients may wake more often and stay awake longer at night. They may have a tendency to toss and turn in bed, wander around in the dark, or even cry out at night, disturbing those around them. While the common pattern is to sleep at night and be active during the day, an Alzeheimer’s patient may experience any degree of an alternate sleep pattern. He or she may be alert at night and drowsy during the day, taking frequent naps during the day. Sometimes, a symptom called “sundowning” occurs, where the patient becomes agitated or restless during the close of the day. In some cases, the normal sleep cycle completely reverses, with the patient awake all night and asleep all day.

Frequent, obvious sleep disturbances may be attributed to worry, depression, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or other causes. It is wise to consult a physician when these occur.

For Alzheimer’s patients, there are nonmedical treatments, generally favored over medications, to help normalize sleep patterns. These include

  • maintaining a regular schedule for eating and sleeping;
  • regular exercise a few hours before bedtime;
  • a comfortable, safe environment, with nightlights and security objects;
  • keeping the bed for sleeping only, discouraging the patient from staying in bed when awake;
  • avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants;
  • exposure to sunlight in the morning;
  • treating pain and discomfort;
  • keeping the patient away from the TV and anything else that can stimulate.

If a healthcare professional recommends medication to help the patient, make sure you inform him or her about other meds the patient is taking, as well as anything else that will help the medical team make a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

So, don’t lose sleep over the problem — solutions are available!


The mission of Bristol House Memory Care is to provide excellent care to residents and offer peace-of-mind to family members. Our vision is to be the memory care community of choice for families affected with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. In the spirit of open communication, we work together with families to create a culture at Bristol House Memory Care based on respect and dignity for all individuals. Our expertise in advanced care practices and commitment to ongoing training ensures that we will provide unsurpassed quality of care.

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