It is an age-old piece of advice that everyone should receive about eight hours of sleep every night. However, this is not always possible for caregivers and the loved ones that they take care of. Sleep problems are common among this group of people, and they can lead to much larger and more complicated health issues.

Persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia especially have problems with sleeping, and researchers are not quite sure why. A very common theory is that the issue has to do with breathing problems that are commonly associated with the new thought patterns.

These sleeping ailments not only affect the person, but also their caregivers. Caregivers are often awakened in the late hours of the night by a loved one who needs emotional reassurance, help going to the bathroom or redirection back to bed.

Similar to parents of young children, caregivers often sleep with eyes and ears half open in case their loved one needs something in the middle of the night. This vigilance does not necessarily go away after a patient has moved into a care facility.

These awakenings lead to ineffective habits in order to make up for lost sleep such as cat napping throughout the day, drinking coffee to stay awake or drinking alcohol to fall asleep. Even more so, they can lead to chronic fatigue, which can cause a caregiver to be more irritable with a loved one and more prone to household and car accidents. Other results of lost sleep can include depression and anxiety.

For these reasons, it is important for a caregiver to establish good sleep habits to ensure the safety and well being of themselves and their loved one. They should try to stick to a regular routine of waking up and going to sleep and refrain from taking naps or naps after 3 p.m. They should also consider additional help at home or a day program so they can rest during the day. Additionally, exercising daily can help to induce fatigue or an increased desire to sleep at night. And being exposed to 30 minutes of sunlight in the morning can help one stay awake throughout the day. Avoid drinking caffeine several hours before bed and try to wind down a few hours before bed to relax.

Implementing these habits can be challenging but can increase the quality and duration of sleep in caregivers and their loved ones. Sleep plays a vital role in one’s mental and physical health, and it is crucial to aim for those eight hours we’ve been told to reach time and time again.

For more information please contact the Alzheimer’s Association or go to www.alz.org.

By : Damaris Lopez