Dementia at night

Many people living with dementia will struggle to maintain a consistent night-time routine. Sleep disturbance is a common side effect, as well as ‘sundowning’ which refers to the worsening of symptoms around the dusk/evening period.

The body clock of a person with dementia might become damaged, meaning that often, an individual might wake up in the middle of the night and not realise it isn’t an appropriate time to get up. This can lead to wandering and even trips and falls, as the person’s home might not be as safe to move around in the dark.

Other reasons why a person with dementia might not sleep well include medication side effects, inactivity and boredom throughout the day, and a reduction in the hormone melatonin, which encourages sleep within the brain.

Sleep disturbance with dementia can unfortunately be a vicious cycle, as a lack of sleep can cause irritability, low mood, and reduced concentration throughout the day, which can in turn intensify symptoms of dementia.

It can also be a distressing time if you are caring for someone with dementia within the home, as their sleep disturbances will no doubt indirectly affect you as well. If your loved one who has dementia is regularly waking up in the middle of the night thinking they have to get to work, this can understandably become a serious problem.

Some tips to help with sleep disturbance include:

Setting a routine- this can help to regulate your body clock and almost ‘trick’ your brain into going to sleep and waking up at consistent times.

Dementia-friendly clocks- these display not only the time, but whether it is night or day as well. This can help to alleviate confusion upon waking up in the middle of the night.

Relaxing evening activities- having a warm bath, drinking a (caffeine-free) hot drink, or listening to calming music are some examples of evening activities that encourage your body to wind down and prepare for sleep.

For more information or if you wish to discuss care for your loved one please email