News and Information

Poor Sleep Can Increase Dementia Risks

Sleep is essential for our mental and physical health in all walks of life, but many older adults struggle to get enough sleep. Physical discomfort, medication and lack of daytime activity can all contribute to this issue. 
Poor sleep quality is an early sign of dementia. It can show up prior to the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, circadian rhythm problems and REM behavior disorder are all connected to dementia. 
One way to help reduce the risk of dementia is to help your older loved one get better sleep. 

Sleep and Dementia

One recent study from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital examined the connection between sleep disturbances and dementia. For patients who reported less than five hours of sleep, the risk of dementia doubled. Taking over 30 minutes to fall asleep meant a 45% greater risk for incident dementia. Additionally, it was found that sleep disturbances were connected with a higher risk of death. Clearly, sleep is vital to our overall well being as well as our brain function.

Signs of Poor Sleep

Here are some signs that your older loved one isn’t getting enough sleep:
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Excessive daytime napping
  • Sundowning, or lower mood and greater agitation in the evening
  • Always waking up tired

Tips to Help Older Adults Sleep Better

If your older loved one, shows signs of poor sleep, it’s time to make a change. It’s imperative to develop good sleep habits and work toward improving sleep. In an effort to achieve better sleep for your older loved one, encourage them to:
  • Limit daytime napping, especially later in the day. Keep any naps under 30 minutes. 
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. 
  • Stop using any blue light devices (cell phones, tablets, TVs, etc.) at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Limit caffeine use and alcohol consumption, especially later in the day. 
  • Only use the bed for sleep and avoid sitting in bed during the day. 
  • Spend more time in the sun. 
  • Get regular activity (walking, resistance training, yoga, etc.). 
Above all, talk with your older loved one about the importance of sleep and the risks of poor sleep. Making changes to get better sleep takes time, so show your support along the way. Check-in on a regular basis, and encourage healthy habits. 
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