Sleep and Alzheimer's Disease

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  • regular a schedule as possible. Get her out of bed at the same time each morning, and put her to bed at the same time each night. Try to discourage her from taking multiple naps during the day—one nap in the afternoon is all right, as long as it lasts no more than an hour. During the day, keep the patient as active as possible.
  • It's also important to get the patient to eat her meals at a regular time each day. In fact, the more routine there is in the schedule, the better the patient is able to cope with the effects of Alzheimer's.
  • It is important to expose the patient to as much bright light as possible. In a nursing home, most patients are exposed to bright light for only 10 minutes a day. Generally in the community, patients are exposed to about 30 minutes a day. Even this is not enough. It would be better if the patient were exposed to bright light for several hours a day. Take her outside whenever possible, especially in the morning. Morning light offers the best exposure, because in a patient with dementia, their circadian rhythm is out of sync with the rhythm of the environment. Bright light improves their functioning and makes them more alert.
  • It is also important that the environment be dark at night. If the patient tends to wander at night and you are worried about her falling or bumping into furniture, you can keep a nightlight on. But understand that bright light interferes with circadian rhythms. Otherwise, keep the patient's bedroom as dark as possible. You should also keep the environment as quiet as possible during the night.
  • Avoid caffeine. Products such as coffee, tea, chocolate or soda can interfere with the circadian rhythm.
  • Exercise is very important. Have her do whatever she is capable of doing: for example, take the patient on a short walk every day on a regular basis, and engage her in throwing a beach ball. Even if she has to use a wheelchair, encourage her to do arm exercises.

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