As people age they tend to sleep less. Often, some people are under the impression that seven to eight hours of sleep is the prescribed length of time they should sleep. Unfortunately, many forget that quality of sleep time is the other must-have part of productive sleep. Getting up at night two or three times often limits quality of sleep, regardless of when the person goes to bed. Not getting enough sleep causes a heavy toll on cognitive and physical well-being of seniors, their loved ones and family caregivers.

Sleep difficulties often increase with age. Some sleep problems are caused by medications, chronic illnesses, sleep disorders, neurological changes and even depression.

Sleep problems are prevalent in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the National Sleep Foundation, in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s some individuals sleep more than usual and often wake up disoriented. Later, during the progression of the disease some patients may begin to sleep more during the day and less during the night. In more advanced stages, some AD patients will “rarely sleep for long periods.” According to the Mayo Clinic, “Alzheimer's may reverse a person's sleep-wake cycle, causing daytime drowsiness and nighttime restlessness.” 

Sleep difficulty, in some older adults, could be an early indication of Alzheimer’s. A study done at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and published in JAMA Neurology early 2013, suggests symptoms of poor sleep quality occur along with amyloid plaque buildup in preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s. Poor sleep quality becomes a strong indicator even before memory loss becomes evident in Alzheimer’s.

Improve Sleep Behaviors and Prevent Nighttime Falls

Even if a senior loved one does not have dementia it is still necessary to provide an environment that promotes quality of sleep. We should always promote changes in daily behaviors that help promote better sleeping habits. The following is a list of changes caregivers may want to consider:

- Avoid caffeinated drinks and beverages during dinner

- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption that could interact with medications

- Increase daytime sunlight exposure and physical activity

- Ask a physician for advice in helping determine if current medications are interfering with sleep

- In order to prevent bedtime or nighttime fall risks, review with the physician medications that could cause  lightheadedness, dizziness and balance problems

- Make available well-lit hallways to and from the bedroom and bathroom

- Provide for well-fitting nighttime garments that do not drag on the floor and cause the patient to fall; if socks are needed, make sure these are nonslip and nonskid medical socks

- Keep room at comfortable temperatures; some seniors may not be able to sense temperature changes; do not allow overheating

Preparing for Bedtime

Making advance bedtime preparations makes transitions easier for both the caregiver and senior loved ones. The following are some bedtime preparation suggestions:

- When preparing for bedtime, include both verbal and physical cues

- Provide a bedtime routine; both caregivers and patients do better when they know what to expect

- Include a winding down period to announce sleep time preparations; include soft music and dress for bedtime in advance; place night clothes in view

- Provide bedside nightlights

- Keep household environmental sounds to a minimum, such as the sounds made by dishwashers, televisions and hair driers

- Bed area should be uncluttered; remove daytime shoes from the sides of the bed

- Close blinds and curtains to indicate the start of a bedtime routine

- Redirect patient in a calm manner, if a patient leaves the room

- Avoid arguing and agitating patient

Providing for a productive sleep environment helps minimize bedtime concerns for seniors and their families. We hope this information helps you and your loved ones. Senior Helpers of Orlando believes in making sure older adults enjoy well-deserved quality sleep time in a safe and secure environment.

If you want to find out more about our services or know of someone who may need in-home health care do not hesitate to contact our Orlando office at 407-628-4357.

Ana P. DeLane

Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member



“Alzheimer's Disease and Sleep,” Sleep Disorder Problems; National Sleep Foundation; retrieved 10/29/14 from

“Why sleep problems are so common; Alzheimer's,” Managing sleep problems; Healthy Lifestyles, Caregivers; Mayo Clinic; retrieved 10/28/14 from

 “Sleep loss precedes Alzheimer’s symptoms,” written by Michael C. Purdy and published online March 11, 2013; retrieved 10/28/2014 from

“Study Suggests Possible Marker of Alzheimer Disease Associated With Worse Sleep Quality,”

 JAMA Neurology Study Highlights; JAMA Neurology; retrieved from

 “Sleep Quality and Preclinical Alzheimer Disease,” JAMA Neurology, 2013; retrieved 10/29/2014 from

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