Sleep is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. It is essential for our physical and mental well-being as it allows our bodies to rest, recover, and recharge. However, it also has a complex relationship with Dementia. As top Dementia Care Providers, we’ve prepared this article to help people understand the relationship between sleep and Dementia.

In this in-depth guide, we will explore:

  • The impact of sleep on Dementia.
  • Common sleep problems for individuals living with Dementia.
  • Causes of excessive sleep-in people living with Dementia.
  • How less sleep impacts Dementia.
  • Managing sleep problems.
  • Three Advantages of Healthy Sleep

How Sleep Affects Dementia

Sleep plays a crucial role in cognitive function, memory consolidation, and overall brain health. Adequate sleep promotes the clearance of toxic substances, such as beta-amyloid plaques, which are closely associated with the development of Dementia.

In fact, studies have shown that sleep disturbances can contribute to an increased risk of developing Dementia later in life. It is believed that disrupted sleep may impair the brain’s ability to effectively remove these harmful substances, leading to their accumulation and subsequent cognitive decline.

Furthermore, research suggests that poor sleep quality and duration can exacerbate existing cognitive impairments in individuals with Dementia. Sleep disturbances can lead to increased confusion, disorientation, and difficulty in performing daily activities. This highlights the importance of addressing sleep problems in individuals with Dementia to optimize their cognitive functioning and quality of life.

Living with Dementia and Sleep issues

Individuals living with Dementia often experience a range of sleep problems that can significantly impact their well-being. These problems can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fragmented sleep
  • Frequent awakenings
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.

It is not uncommon for individuals living with Dementia to have their sleep-wake cycle disrupted, leading to irregular sleep patterns and difficulties in maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

Additionally, individuals living with Dementia may exhibit behaviours such as wandering, pacing, and agitation, particularly during the night. These behaviours can further disrupt their sleep and contribute to increased caregiver burden. Understanding the underlying causes of these sleep problems is crucial in developing effective strategies to manage them.

The Causes of Excessive Sleep

One of the interesting aspects of Dementia is the tendency for individuals to sleep excessively. This excessive sleep, also known as hypersomnia, can be attributed to various factors.

Firstly, the degeneration of brain cells in individuals living with Dementia can disrupt the normal sleep-wake cycle, leading to increased sleepiness during the day.

Additionally, certain medications used to manage symptoms of Dementia, such as sedatives or antipsychotics, can contribute to drowsiness and prolonged sleep.

Furthermore, it is important to consider the impact of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, which are more prevalent in individuals living with Dementia.

These sleep disorders can disrupt the quality and duration of sleep, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes of excessive sleep, in individuals living with Dementia is crucial in providing appropriate care and support.

Sleep Deprivation and Dementia Progression

Sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on the progression of Dementia. Chronic sleep deprivation can exacerbate cognitive decline, memory impairment, and behavioural disturbances in individuals living with Dementia. The lack of quality sleep can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, and agitation, further compromising their overall well-being.

Furthermore, sleep deprivation can impair the brain’s ability to consolidate memories and process information, leading to further cognitive decline.

That’s why it’s essential to prioritize adequate sleep in individuals living with Dementia to optimize their cognitive functioning and slow down the progression of the disease.

How to Deal with Sleep Problems

Senior man sleeping in bed

Managing sleep problems in individuals living with Dementia requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the underlying causes and the associated symptoms.

Improve Consistency

Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle and promote better sleep. This includes maintaining regular bedtimes and wake-up times, ensuring a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime.

Minimize Disruptions

It is important to minimize disruptions during the night. Examples of disruptions include excessive noise or bright lights. Dark noise cancelling curtains can help.

Relaxation Techniques

Caregivers can try implementing relaxation techniques. Examples of this are gentle music or aromatherapy. A massage before sleep can also aid in promoting a calm and restful sleep environment.

Adjusting Medication

Some medicine can cause an individual to sleep excessively. Here, medication adjustments may be necessary to manage sleep disturbances effectively. Of course, this should always be done under the guidance of healthcare professionals.

Sundowning: Signs, Symptoms, and Strategies

Sundowning is a phenomenon commonly observed in individuals living with Dementia, wherein their symptoms worsen during the late afternoon and evening. This can significantly disrupt their sleep patterns and exacerbate behavioural disturbances.

Recognizing the signs of sundowning is crucial in developing strategies to cope with this challenging aspect of Dementia care.

Signs of sundowning can include:

  • Increased confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Wandering

These symptoms that worsen over time can be distressing for both the individual living with Dementia and their caregivers. Strategies for coping with sundowning include creating a calm and soothing environment during the evening hours, engaging in relaxing activities, and providing reassurance and support.

It is also important to ensure the individual’s basic needs are met, such as hunger or thirst, as these can contribute to increased agitation.

Addressing Personality and Behavioural Changes

Dementia not only affects cognitive function but also brings about significant personality and behavioural changes. These changes can have a profound impact on sleep patterns and overall well-being. Individuals living with Dementia may exhibit increased aggression, agitation, or restlessness, particularly during the night.

Understanding and addressing these behavioural changes is essential in promoting healthy sleep and enhancing the quality of life for both the individual living with Dementia and their caregivers.

Creating a structured and predictable environment can help reduce anxiety and behavioural disturbances. This includes maintaining a familiar routine, providing clear and concise instructions, and minimizing environmental triggers that may contribute to agitation.

Please remember that it is also important to practice patience and empathy when responding to challenging behaviours, as individuals living with Dementia may struggle to communicate their needs effectively.

Three Benefits of Healthy Sleep

#1 Better Physical Health

When people sleep, their bodies produce hormones that control appetite and help to maintain a healthy metabolism. Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of these hormones, leading to increased hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods. Moreover, lack of sleep can negatively affect the human body’s ability to process glucose, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, sleep helps support the immune system. During sleep, our bodies produce proteins called cytokines, which help to fight off infections and inflammation. When we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system becomes compromised, making us more susceptible to illnesses.

During sleep, our human release human growth hormone (HGH), which is responsible for muscle repair and growth. This can be helpful for people with individuals experiencing early Dementia who engage in physical activity.

#2 Better Mental Health

Sleep deprivation has been strongly linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. When a person living with Dementia doesn’t get enough sleep, their brain’s ability to regulate emotions and process stress is further impaired. This can lead to heightened anxiety levels, difficulty concentrating, and a negative impact on mood.

As mentioned, poor sleep can impact Dementia. For example, experts say that Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

#3 Better Productivity and Focus

One of the most noticeable benefits of healthy sleep is its positive impact on productivity and focus. When people are well-rested, their cognitive abilities are enhanced, allowing them to think more clearly and stay focused for longer periods of time. On the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to decreased concentration, impaired memory, and reduced productivity.

Conditions that Impact Sleep

As we’ve established, Dementia can impact the quality of a person’s sleep. However, there are other conditions that affect sleep.


Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Many different factors can result in insomnia, including:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Pain

In addition to addressing those conditions, it is important to establish a consistent sleep routine, create a sleep-friendly environment, and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This can lead to daytime fatigue, snoring, and other health issues. Treatment options for sleep apnea include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, lifestyle changes, and weight management.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a condition characterized by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs, often accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them. To address RLS, individuals can try techniques such as leg massages, stretching exercises, and avoiding triggers such as caffeine or alcohol.


Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden bouts of sleep. Treatment for narcolepsy may involve medications, lifestyle adjustments, and scheduled naps throughout the day.

The Role of Nutrition and Active Living in Promoting Healthy Sleep

Nutrition and active living can help promote sleep in people with Dementia.

  • A nutritious diet: A variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help. Avoiding heavy or spicy meals that cause indigestion is a good idea.
  • Less caffeine: Consumption of coffee, tea, colas, and energy drinks should be regulated. Herbal teas may be better options.
  • More water: People living with Dementia should drink enough water in the day to stay hydrated. However, they should avoid consuming too much liquid before bed, as it may result in trips to the bathroom during the night.
  • Active living: Physical activity can promote better sleep by reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood, and regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. However, it’s advisable to avoid physical activity close to bedtime, as it can increase alertness and make it harder to fall asleep.

Limit Exposure to Screens before Bed

Devices have been ubiquitous. And individuals living with Dementia may use smartphones or tablets to read, consume entertainment, connect with family, or meet with medical professionals. While devices are useful, they can be harmful for sleep.

Experts say that the blue light emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets may interfere with sleep. People living with Dementia should avoid using these devices at least one hour before bed. In addition, the colour temperatures on devices can also be adjusted.

Top Live-in Care Services

In cases where individuals living with Dementia require round-the-clock care, professional live-in care services can be a valuable option. Live-in care providers offer personalized support and assistance with daily activities, including managing sleep-related issues. These professionals are trained to provide specialized Dementia care and can adapt their approach to accommodate the individual’s unique needs and preferences.

Live-in care services also allow people living with Dementia to live with dignity at home. Staying in familiar surroundings can help people living with Dementia feel comfortable and enjoy a decent quality of sleep.

When considering live-in care services in Mississauga or Toronto, please consider Integracare Home Care. We know how to care for someone living with Dementia with compassion and dignity.

The Close Connection Between Sleep and Dementia

Understanding how sleep and Dementia are intricately linked emphasizes the importance of prioritizing healthy sleep habits for individuals dealing with this condition.

Getting sufficient sleep is not only crucial for maintaining cognitive function but also for slowing down the progression of Dementia and improving overall well-being.

By recognizing the impact of sleep on Dementia, addressing sleep-related issues, and seeking professional support, we can take proactive steps to enhance the sleep quality of individuals living with Dementia.

About Integracare Home Care

Integracare Home Care provides a range of home health care services in Toronto and Mississauga and are experts in providing at-home Dementia Care. Our services are reliable, consistent, flexible, and designed to meet the varying individual needs of those in need of Senior home care.

In addition to At Home Nursing Care and Personal Support Services, our at-home care services in Toronto and Mississauga also include Dementia Care, Palliative Care, Wound Care, Physiotherapy, and Massage Therapy.