The Sleep Environment for People with Dementia

Creating a Relaxing Environment for Sleep 

Making some changes to your home can help a person living with dementia. Consider what tips may work for your household as each person experiences dementia differently.
These suggestions are especially important if your loved one is anxious, fearful, in pain or having hallucinations.

  • As much as possible keep the bedroom environment familiar to the person with dementia. For example, furnish the bedroomwith personal belongings and arrange furniture the way they like it. 
  • Encourage a quiet bedroom; if possible remove noise that may wake the person with dementia during the night.

Make the bedroom and bed comfortable:

  • A warm bed in a cooler room is best.
  • Make sure the bed is the correct height and size for their body.
  • Is the bed soft enough to be comfortable, but firm enough to support the body during sleep?
  • Rearrange pillows to help relieve pain and physical conditions.
  • Close curtains or blinds at night. Cover or remove mirrors; people with dementia don’t immediately recognise their reflection and this can be more fearful at night.
  • Open the blinds or curtains at wake up time. Natural light will make it easier for the person with dementia to get up.
  • If the person is refusing to go to bed, try offering alternatives, such as sleeping on the couch.
  • Add relaxing touches that make you (and your loved one) feel good, like aroma oils, potpourri or soft music.

Consider a home safety evaluation; suggestions can be provided to you about where to place lights, bed positioning, avoiding dangerous hazards and limiting stress, fear and agitation for the person living with dementia. For more information, contact your local hospital’s Aged Care Assessment Team.  

 

Wandering at Night

When you find your loved one wandering at night:

  • Gently remind the person that it is night-time and it's time to go to sleep.
  • Check if they need to use the toilet, consider if they are hungry, frustrated or bored?
  • Think about what changes you could make in the environment to calm them down.  
  • Have ways to guide the person back to bed.
  • Perhaps 15 minutes of soothing music, or a small amount of food or drink or maybe a short massage will help them relax.
  • If locks are used, be sure that they are not a fire hazard.
  • If you do not want the person you are caring for to use a particular door, paint it the same colour as surrounding walls so it does not stand out. You can also make a sign saying ‘do not go through this door’ or use an image that might stop them opening it.
  • Another idea is to put bells on any doors you do not want them to go through and have a baby monitor nearby so you can hear the door opening.
  • Consider providing the person with dementia with a location device, ID bracelet or sewing their name into clothing. 

Waking during the Night

Think about the ligthing conditions that are best for the person living with dementia that will help orientate them if they do wake up at night:

  • Movement sensors are easy to buy to light up the path to the toilet. 
  • Put night lights in the bedroom, hallway and bathroom. 
  • Switch off outside lights during the night, it may encourage the person with dementia to wander.
  • If you are a carer and sleep in a different room, you can have a movement sensor buzzer under your pillow.

Design your Environment

Brain storm ideas on how to improve your loved one’s sleep environment. Rank these ideas and trial the first two. Write in a diary to keep track of what works for you.

 

What Causes Wandering?

If your loved one is wandering at night consider what might be causing it.

  • Maybe they are having difficulty expressing what they need?
  • Perhaps they are feeling trapped, anxious, or confused?
  • Is there a physical problem that needs to be treated?

Feelings of boredom or frustration can be common. This can make people restless at night. Consider daytime activities or other strategies that might work for the person you are caring for.  

Dementia Support Organisations

Healthcare teams that can provide

you with support:

Alzheimer’s Australia
http://www.fightdementia.org.au
Phone: 1800 100 500

(National Dementia Helpline- 24hrs)
The Dementia Centre
http://www.dementiacentre.com.au
Phone: 1300 426 666

Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service
http://www.dbmas.org.au
Phone: 1800 699 799

(24 hour phone support)

My Aged Care

Australian Government: Department of Social Services
http://www.myagedcare.gov.au 
Phone: 1800 200 422
Department of Veteran Affairs
http://www.dva.gov.au

Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres
http://www9.health.gov.au
Phone: 1800 059 059

Carers NSW
http://www.carersnsw.org.au
Phone: 1800 242 636

Commonwealth Carer Resource Centres
http://ccdn.com.au
1800 242 636