Tackling sleeping issues

Sleep problems are common among people with dementia, and your doctor might have already prescribed you medication to help you sleep better at night. This page looks at what you can do to help, including preparing for bed and food and drink to avoid.

Talk to your doctor first

Dementia can interfere with your sleep patterns by interfering with your “body clock” and your sleep-wake cycle. If you’re having trouble sleeping, or you find yourself taking frequent naps through the day, it’s a good idea to see your GP. As well as prescribing any necessary medication, they can advise you on the best way to manage sleep issues.

General tips on achieving better sleep

Stick to a regular sleeping routine

  • Having a regular routine of waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day is the most important thing you can do to help improve your sleep
  • You might not be used to keeping a regular routine – in fact, most people don’t. This is manageable if you aren’t experiencing any sleep problems, but it can be a big issue if something like dementia is interfering with your sleep patterns.

Get some regular exercise

  • Exercise is good for releasing tension and can make you more tired for when you go to sleep
  • Make sure you don’t exercise just before going to sleep, though, because that will make you more awake
  • Read our guidance on finding exercise suitable for you here.

Avoid alcohol or caffeine before bed

  • Alcohol might help you to get to sleep initially, but will interfere with your sleeping pattern later on, leading to a lower quality of sleep
  • Caffeine interferes with the process of going to sleep, and depending on the person, the effects can last up to 24 hours. Avoid drinking too much coffee and tea through the day and especially avoid it in the evening – try something like herbal tea or a milky drink.

Preparing for sleep

You’ll find it easier to go to sleep at the end of the day if you:

  • avoid anything physically or mentally taxing in the hour before going to bed
  • avoid TVs, phones, or other screens before bed
  • use your bed only for sleeping or sex (if you want to read, do it in another room)
  • establish a bedtime ritual, consistently doing the same activities each day before going to bed
  • write anything you have to do tomorrow on a “to do” list so that you can relax and prepare for sleep
  • do relaxing activities before bed, such as having a warm bath, light yoga stretches, relaxation CDs or reading a book
  • make sure your bed is comfy and you’ve got thick curtains to block any streetlights from outside

Check out the NHS section on sleeping well for more tips and ideas.