Promoting Sleep in Dementia Patients

Dementia patients often suffer from sleep disorders. A new project is looking at measures that could change that.

Most dementia patients tend to have sleep disorders because their circadian rhythm is imbalanced. As a result, patients, relatives and caregivers suffer considerably from restlessness and sleeplessness, marked by nightly confusion. Nursing homes thus face a major challenge to ensure good quality sleep. Until now, we lack effective and practical measures to help dementia patients sleep well.

Sleep-inducing and psychotropic drugs are often prescribed, but most of them are not just ineffective, but possibly harmful. Hence, we not only need measures that the patients can apply themselves, but also ways for facilities to improve their situation.

Darkness and silence at night

Our Universität zu Lübeck, the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) are working on a joint project. Their goal over the next two years is to develop a set of non-medication measures to address sleep disorders in dementia patients in nursing homes, and to conduct a controlled trial of their suitability and efficacy. This set includes, for instance, resident-based measures for night care like individual sleep routines, adapting the surroundings to promote sleep by avoiding lights and noise at night, and participating in daytime pursuits like diverse physical and social activities.

Prof. Sascha Köpke of our Universität zu Lübeck and research group coordinator, comments, “We are pleased to have the chance to finally address this crucial but so far basically neglected problem, and hope to come up with something helpful for people with dementia.” The project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


How to avoid sleep disorders in people with dementia? That’s exactly what a new research project seeks to find out (Picture: flickr / Iriss photo collection)