Conversely, even if patient of dementia would want a good sleep, it is, for him/ her, quite a rarity. The reason for this can be attributed to a phenomenon called “sundowning” which is characterized by sleeplessness and confusion which begins in the evening.
An average person gets best sleep from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Dementia patients, on the contrary, are prone to falling asleep in the afternoon and spending their nights in sheer panic.
Hence, it becomes imperative to take certain steps to ensure that a dementia patient develops a more normal sleeping pattern. The following are 9 things you can accustom a dementia patient to help them have better sleep:-
- Timely sleeping habits: Fixed sleep timings habituate the body clock to sleep at a particular time and wake up at a particular time. Try to get a dementia patient to sleep by 10 or 11, so that sleep is complete by sunrise and then they can go ahead with basking in the sun.
- Outdoor Mornings + Dim lit evenings: Exposure to light and Sundowning are related phenomena. If a dementia patient is exposed to sunlight in the morning and dim lighting in the evenings, he/ she falls into the pattern of being agile in the day and heavy-eyed by sleep-time.
- Light exercise: Light exercise twice or thrice a day ensures good circulation and keeps one alert to keep doing small tasks and staying awake.
- Keep busy: Leonardo Da Vinci once said- ‘A well spent day brings happy sleep’. Simple productive chores or tasks shall boost the patient’s self-worth. It also keeps them from falling asleep during the day and feeling tired enough to sleep at night.
- Daytime nap: Patients can be adapted to taking a very short nap in the afternoon. It is essential for this nap to be brief or it may hamper the night’s sleep.
- Lighter evening meals: Light evening meals ensure smooth digestion which in turn ensures a deep sleep. Spicy, slow-to-digest food should be avoided in the evenings.
- Music: Relaxation therapies work very well for patients with dementia. Music helps soothe them and subside the tension. Soft relaxing music, especially in the evenings, helps them drift off into a worriless sleep.
- Uncluttered surrounding: It is best if dementia patients sleep in a familiar room and surrounding with low or no noise penetration (from outside or in the house). Furniture should be placed such that the route from the bed to the toilet is short and uncluttered. A dim-light or lamp can be left on, so that patients do not feel scared if they get up in the middle of the night.
- Bath before bedtime: A bedtime bath ritual allows for calming the nerves and avoids disorientation problems common in a dementia patient. Moreover, a shower is said to induce one to fall into complete sleep.