Tips to Improve Sleep

Try to avoid caffeine. Remember that tea and many soft drinks, such as cola as well as coffee, have caffeine. Sugar and chocolate also can keep a person from sleeping.

Avoid heavy meals with meats, such as beef or pork, thick sauces, or rich desserts just before bedtime. Some kinds of medicines also can cause trouble sleeping; discuss this with your doctor.

Some people, for example those with back problems or arthritis, may wake up because of pain. If people have medicine for pain, taking this medicine at bedtime will help them sleep.

A person may wake up at night because they have to use the bathroom. If they drink less after dinner, they may not have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. However, it is important to make certain they do not get dehydrated. It may be easier for them to have a commode or urinal close to the bed. Those who cannot control going to the bathroom sometimes wake up because of wetness. Incontinence underwear may help prevent the feeling of wetness.

If people have too much rest during the day, it may be hard for them to fall asleep at night. They should have some exercise, preferably in the late afternoon or early evening. People who have severe progressive dementia need exercise just as healthy people need exercise.

People often have trouble sleeping at night if they take naps during the day. Even though it is easier for the caregiver to do chores when the person naps during the day, it may cause problems sleeping at night. Sometimes keeping someone in street clothes with the room well lit will keep them from taking a nap.

Do not forget the nightlight. A person who wakes up and is afraid or does not know where he or she is, probably will not be able to get back to sleep. Also, if there is some light in the house, there is less risk for a fall. Sometimes keeping the room a little quieter or a little cooler will help. The only activity that should take place in the patient's bedroom is sleeping.

Make sure the house is safe. Before bedtime turn the stove off at the circuit breaker. If all else fails, request from the physician a sleep medicine that does not interfere with memory function.

Night Wandering - Some patients wander at night. Unfortunately this may keep the caregiver in light sleep, on the alert, or awake all night. The caregiver must have a good night's sleep to handle the challenges of each day. Remember, if the person sleeps well, the caregiver is also rested.

Remember these sleep helps:

Material from “Helping People With Progressive Memory Disorders: A Guide For You And Your Family” (University of Florida Health Science Center). Used with permission from the authors: K. M. Heilman, MD, L. Doty, PhD, J. T. Stewart, MD, D Bowers, PhD, L. Gonzalez-Rothi, PhD.

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College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida