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How Does Sleep Impact those with Dementia?

March 17, 2022

Sleep. We all know it is essential, yet so many factors in today’s fast-paced world can make it challenging to get a healthy amount. For our loved ones with dementia, sleep is even more important—both the quality and quantity of sleep are affected by dementia, and the resulting lack of adequate sleep leads to a host of other issues that affect one’s overall quality of life.

Impacts of Poor Sleep on People With Dementia

For seniors with dementia, research has shown that poor sleep leads to the following:

  • More rapid cognitive decline
  • Increased agitation and aggression
  • A reversed sleep-wake cycle, such that the person is awake most of the night and sleeps throughout the day—thereby missing moments and connections that bring joy and promote health
  • Increased risk of falls

Ways to Foster Better Sleep for People With Dementia

Consider the following ideas to improve sleep for seniors with dementia:


Spend time outdoors as much as possible, especially in the morning. Exposure to sunlight in the morning helps set one’s sleep-wake cycle for the day. Pay attention to indoor lighting, too; keep bright lights on during the day and dim them in the evening.

Stay Active

Sleep research has shown that exercise and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that exercise during the day often produces better sleep at night. Those who get quality rest at night tend to be more likely to exercise the following day. Seniors can do movements such as marching and reaching from a chair or wheelchair to achieve similar cardiovascular results to those unable to walk. Try incorporating hand weight exercises into morning movement routines; there is growing evidence that strength training produces better sleep than aerobic exercise alone.

Play Relaxing Sounds

Avoid playing favorite songs or songs with words at bedtime, as these are stimulating and will work against falling into a restful sleep. Instead, choose a sound that the person with dementia finds calming, such as a waterfall, an ocean tide, crickets chirping, or rainfall. Many of these sounds, and other similar sounds, can be found on nighttime sound machines and will serve the dual purpose of drowning out nearby disruptive noises.

Getting enough sleep for individuals with dementia is numerous and notable. They can engage in activities such as socialization and participate in therapies or recreations at their leisure while being active themselves, which leads to improved quality of life!

At The Hickman, we emphasize the importance of exercise as a vital part of living a healthy and balanced life. Residents in our memory care neighborhood take part in a daily structured exercise group led by our trained memory care staff; instructors offer group exercise classes from Going Fit five days each week in our larger community. Along with our peaceful, park-like setting in the heart of downtown West Chester Borough and the beautiful sun-filled porches and patios on our campus, The Hickman offers the perfect place for you or your loved one to relax and call home. Contact us today for a tour!