Sleepless Nights and Dementia


Sleepless nights. We all have dealt with this—caregivers especially. When a loved one is up for whatever reason, they have to be too. You never know what might happen.

I am blessed in a way; I do have many sleepless nights, but I am still at an early enough stage where I can get up, and at least Phyllis June can stay in bed.

I think we went to bed about 11:00 PM last night. It took me a long time to get to sleep, and I was wide awake at 2:00 AM.

When this happens, it throws my entire day into a tailspin. From the time a patient wakes up until the time they go back to sleep, their mind is racing.

It's just what happens. We become mentally drained because of this disease, and when you add the lack of sleep into the mix, then you have a real disaster waiting to happen.

I can only imagine what it is like to try to care for your loved one with only three or four hours of sleep daily—sometimes less. This becomes a bad situation for everyone involved.

The caregiver obviously is on thin ice from lack of sleep, and even their decision making can be impaired at times because of this.

I will definitely lay down sometime later today, but it sure puts a damper on what is already an impossible situation at times. As I said, we patients are constantly fighting with memory deficits and being mentally drained. I don't know what is worse: dealing with this or trying to explain to people that there is just nothing that can be done for this situation.

I take enough medication at times to drop a fully grown elephant. I also take sleeping pills prescribed by my doctor. They don't work, and they never have. A lack of sleep is something I have dealt with for years now.

I remember my doctor telling me to get sleep whenever I can. It doesn't matter if it’s in the middle of the day. In other words, don't be concerned that your loved one seems to be sleeping too much and at odd hours.

My guess is that they rarely get any good, restful sleep at all, and if they do, it's very rare. Like I said, I have been battling this lack of sleep for as long as I can remember.

One day there will be something that can be done for the sleepless nights patients have to deal with. And, when that happens, that will result in the caregiver being able to get more restful sleep as well. There just isn't anything that can be done right now…

I have done everything to try to get a restful sleep. I have heard all of the usual suggestions and tried many different things—all to no avail. Some people have suggested attending a sleep clinic. However, the problem is that this issue stems from dementia. It isn't something that can be analyzed and "fixed" in a sleep clinic, for example.

The one thing I do know is that there isn't anything on TV at two in the morning. Thank God for Memory People… I usually read some posts that I had previously overlooked during the wee hours of the morning.

Rick Phelps became an advocate for dementia awareness after being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in June of 2010, at the age of 57. He was forced into early retirement and created Memory People, an online dementia and memory impairment group which supports over 7,000 individuals, all touched in some way by dementia.

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Thanks Rick for sharing the other side of the story. I am a caregiver on the other side. My husband is 76 and has vascular dementia and started with the sleep problems few months ago. I call him Wide Awake Willie. I have learned the hard way there is nothing much I can do about it. I do not want him on any sleep meds because basically he is so fuzzy in the middle of the night the risk of falling is high. There is also the real problem of drug interactions with the tons of other meds he is taking. I have found his brain simply does not process facts like it's 3 am, breakfast isn't for 6 hours and we have an appointment at 10:30. Sometimes his bladder wakes him up and I go in and help him get back in bed when done. And then he might be up again in 1/2 hour and has forgotten he already went. I have an excellent baby monitor to keep track of what's going on. My latest tack is to go in quietly ( after telling him I am coming to help) and help him get back in bed. I have motion sensitive night lights placed around the room and in the bathroom so the bright lights don't wake up our brains further. And when it starts that he is popping up every 1/2 hour or so, and it is close to morning, I turn off the monitor and try to get back to sleep myself. I am not functioning with little sleep and can be kind of nasty at times. It is hard for me to remember it's his brain and he's not being stubborn. We also put a recliner in his room so he can get up and read. And we are getting a hospital bed next week so it will be harder for him to just pop up. Hope this helps from the other side!
Thanks. Once my husband is in bed he doesn't move. But he has "slipped" out several times with his legs hanging out and his back sideways on the bed. At 6'4" and 250 lbs it is extremely difficult for me to get him up. We do have a horseshoe bar to help him but I think it is making it more difficult to get in bed. I am hoping the hospital bed will make it easier for both of us.
Good luck on hospital bed, didnt slow my mom a bit.She climbed right over the rail.made it more dangerous.She sleeps better in bigger bed. Giod thing hosputal bed will lower close to floor floor