Dementia is not a single condition. It is a group of conditions that are associated with reduced ability to remember or think. As you may know, sleep is controlled by the brain. Therefore, dementia and sleep are closely related. Sleep and increase cases of dementia while dementia can cause insomnia and other sleeping problems. Though it can be seen in young people, dementia is more common is persons who are above the age of 65.
Dementia and Sleep: Relationship
Dementia and sleep are so interlinked that they not only affect the sick person only but also the caregivers. Most of the caregivers based at homes are forced to place patients in special homes so that they can lead normal lives. One of the main symptoms of dementia is loss of memory.
The brain can lose its ability to remember pasts sleeping pattern leading to poor sleep. In addition, the person forget when and when not to sleep. To night and day do not have any difference. In short, dementia affects the sleep/wake pattern.
For a good night sleep, it is importance for some preparations to be done. These preparations can be showering, getting out of the house to experience daylight, eating well among other thing. Dementia and sleep makes a person to forget these important preparations leading to poor sleeping patterns.
Other Symptoms or Side-effects of Dementia that affect Sleep
- Incontinent – wetness lower body temperature leading to poor sleep.
- About 20 to 30% of these patients are also diagnosed with depression.
- About 20% of them are observed to have anxiety issues.
- Increased cases of night terrors and nightmares.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia occurs when brain cells are damaged such that they do not communicate with each other. When cells cannot “talk” to each other, the result is feelings, thinking and normal habits are affected. The function that is impaired depends on the part of the brain that is damaged.
One of the commonest forms of dementia is the Alzheimer’s disease that accounts for 60% to 70% of cases. In Alzheimer’s disease, there is increase in proteins among brain cells such that cell health and communication is severely affected. In Alzheimer’s disease, the cells of the hippocampus area of the brain which controls memory are affected leading to memory loss. Other causes of dementias include:
- Blood vessels diseases such as stroke.
- Toxic reaction due to the use of drugs and alcohol.
- Lack of enough folate or vitamin B12 in the diet.
- HIV/AIDS related dementia.
- Infections to the brain or spinal cord.
- Hydrocephalus – excess water/fluid in the brain.
- Head injuries due accidents.
- As a side effect of brain surgery.
- Diseases on other organs of the body such as kidney, liver and pancreases.
Dementia and Sleep: Tips for Caregivers and Patients
As pointed out above, dementia and sleep affects caregivers as much as the patient. Here are important tips for caregivers:
- Take time to sleep and relax with other members of the family.
- Help the patient to get involved in family activities- helps in memory.
- Be realist as you take care of the patient – you can only do so much.
- Put the patient to bed at the same time every day.
- Be informed about the condition.
- The patient should not be given any food or drinks that can affect sleep negatively.