Sleep Behavior in Dementia Patients
The build-up of proteins in the brain is at least partially to blame for dementia disorder symptoms. It’s not a surprise patients experience trouble with sleep in their later years. Because the build-up of fibrils and plaques affects cognitive function, the symptoms of dementia disorders compound to cause even more issues with brain function later on. This unfortunately means less sleep and less restful sleep only contribute to these symptoms even more. To add to the patient’s unfortunate circumstances, their ever-changing perception of the world around them can cause sundowning and an altered grasp on time.
While degeneration of healthy neurons and cognitive function cannot be reversed, slowing the effects can help them maintain their current quality of life. By helping those suffering from dementia disorders gain quality and consistent amounts of sleep, caretakers and loved ones can help mitigate additional neural damage. Because the world around them is uncertain and in many cases new and scary, dementia patients are at risk for wandering. Lack of sleep in dementia patients can lead to days filled with greater cognitive impairment and mood swings, behavioral changes, and even difficulties with other brain functions.
Patients may experience tiredness throughout the day with an inability to sleep restfully at night. Staying outdoors to encourage melatonin production can help those living with dementia to stay awake until it’s time for bed. Cutting back on fluid intake in the later hours of the day can help with bathroom breaks during the night hours. Creating a restful sleep environment can assist in staying asleep once dementia patients are able to retire for the evening. While these actions may help in small ways, it is still very common for those living with a dementia disorder to continue to have unhealthy sleep behaviors and struggle with getting quality sleep.
To continue to understand the way sleep impacts brain function, especially as it relates to brain disorders, researchers have much left to learn. For more information on how you can help find a cure for a variety of brain disorders by funding research projects through the United Brain Association, click here. If you’d like to get updates on our ongoing and upcoming research projects, sign up for emails with us here. Together we can help find a cure!