Go With the Flow or Stick to a Sleep Schedule?
On the other hand, a well-timed nap can do wonders for mood and energy, and there may be times when it’s better to allow your loved one to doze off for a bit than fight with them to stay awake. If you do allow for a nap, be sure to limit it to 30 minutes — this way, it won’t disrupt the sleep cycle too much and keep them wide awake in the middle of the night.
Natural and Medical Treatments for Sleep Issues
There are all sorts of drugs to promote or regulate sleep, but doctors warn that they might be more troublesome than they are worth when Alzheimer’s is involved.
Those who do use sleeping aids are more prone to falls, fractures, confusion, and a decline in independence. Taking these meds for too long can lead to very serious health and lifestyle changes.
Non-drug therapies should be your first course of action when you’re trying to establish a regular, healthy sleep cycle. There are some easy ways to naturally tweak sleep patterns that you may want to try out:
Use the Sun to Your Advantage
As soon as they wake up, move your loved one into the natural light, whether next to the window or out into the warm sunshine. This will trigger their internal clock, spark their energy, and keep their circadian rhythm in check.
Likewise, gradually dim the light in the evening as night approaches, cutting out screen time altogether two or three hours before bed.
Keep Portions Small and Frequent
If you suspect heavy meals might be interfering with energy levels, try to keep them small, light, and evenly spaced.
It’s better for Alzheimer’s patients to eat regular, manageable portions rather than tackle big meals, especially since appetite changes are often a big challenge as the disease progresses. Lighter meals can lift up spirits rather than weigh down stomachs.
Check With Their Doctor
In many cases, co-existing disorders can amplify Alzheimer’s complications. When someone seems to be sleeping much more than normal, depression could be at play.
In other cases, sleep apnea could be interfering with nighttime sleep: even if they make it through the night relatively peacefully, your loved one may not be getting the restful and rejuvenating sleep they need to stay energized during the days.
Ultimately, sleeping for longer stretches may just be a phase in the disease, and there’s little that could (or should) be done to change it. If your doctor has ruled out other potentially harmful conditions or interactions that could be causing problems, it may be best to allow your loved one to get as much sleep as they need or want.
If they begin to wake up groggy and disoriented, be patient and take the time to ease them into their wakeful hours as best you can. Alzheimer’s care is no easy feat, but when you can find ways to go with the flow and meet in the middle, you can minimize the workload for everyone.