How does Dementia affect sleep?

Problems with sleeping are a common occurrence for people with dementia. Some people sleep during the day and are awake and restless at night. Some are no longer able to tell the difference between night and day, while others are simply not as active as they used to be and consequently need less sleep.

The brain damage caused by the dementia has affected the ‘biological clock’ in the brain, which directs our sleep patterns. A person suffering with dementia can become increasingly restless, confused, agitated or distressed particularly as the sun is setting and it becomes dark outside. This is known as ‘sundowning’.

At Sussex Grange we know the importance of recognising what may be causing sleep problems. Is it the environment, the dementia or the medications used? This will help us to decide on which strategies may be helpful. Some families and carers find that keeping a log or diary may help to show the pattern of behaviour that may be developing, enabling the cause of the problem to be pinpointed.

We have a number of strategies in place which are recommend by Dementia UK:

  • Establish the cause of the sleep disturbance;
  • Check the room temperature and adjust as necessary;
  • Use night/day clocks which help clearly indicate the time of the day or night;
  • Low level light or night lights can help the person find the bathroom and promote orientation;
  • Put familiar things in sight such as photos or prized possessions;
  • Think about food and drink, for example perhaps avoid caffeine based drinks and large meals before bed;
  • Find out about toilet habits, ensure the toilet has been used prior to retiring to bed;
  • Ensure any continence aids used are appropriate for night time and are fitted comfortably;
  • Consider if soft music or relaxing sounds would relax the individual and help them get to sleep.

For more information on the effect that dementia has on sleep please visit To talk about respite care for dementia patients at Sussex Grange, please contact us.