08/19/2013 10:21 am ET Updated Oct 19, 2013

Many With Dementia Face Sleeplessness: How to Handle This Behavioral Change

With millions of people from all over the country diagnosed with Alzheimer's and dementia, and with these numbers growing drastically year after year, chances are many in the United States know, care for, or interact regularly with an individual with dementia. This is precisely why understanding the different side effects that come with dementia and how to deal with these side effects is so important, especially when it comes to understanding sleeplessness.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on helping those with dementia overcome their sleeplessness. While a full night of rest is important for any person in order to stay healthy, focused and energized, it is even more crucial that those with dementia are getting a full night of sleep. This can help prevent irritability and lower the chances of disorientation and confusion.

Unfortunately, even though sleep is extremely important for those with Alzheimer's disease, most individuals with dementia are not getting nearly enough sleep. As the damage to the brain progresses with this ailment, the likelihood of sleeplessness increases as many experts believe that the damage done to the brain with this condition actually reverses the natural sleep to wake brain cycle. This results in Alzheimer's patients becoming tired, groggy or sleepy during the day and finding themselves unable to sleep through the night.

This is why it is so important to understand ways to combat sleeplessness in dementia patients, whether you are the professional caregiver, helping out or if you are a friend or loved one. Before attempting any method in order to help an individual with dementia cope with sleeplessness, it is important to consult their health care provider to make sure other conditions such as depression, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea aren't at the root of the problem. You will also want to see if the health care professional has any recommendations on changes in medication, dosages or the time the individual with dementia takes their medication as these can also contribute to sleeplessness.

One of the first things that you may want to consider is getting the individual on a set regimen. This means soaking in sun or bright lights in the morning, avoiding long daytime or afternoon naps, staying away from sugar and caffeine in the evenings and getting them to bed at the same time every night. The bed should also only be considered as a place for sleep, and they should never be eating, resting, reading or watching television in bed. Before going to sleep, try implementing a relaxing night time ritual that includes activities such as taking a long bath, or listening to music instead of watching television or engaging in other stimulating activities. Small changes like this can go a long way in helping someone with Alzheimer's disease get on a schedule, and the benefits of a better night rest can be instrumental in managing Alzheimer's disease.

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