One of the characteristics of dementia is sleep disordered breathing. More than 80 percent of dementia patients have sleep apnea . If we can treat them successfully for sleep apnea, we might be able to improve their sleep at night and their alertness during the day. Speak to the patient's physician about this possibility.
Improving sleep at night and functioning during the day helps to postpone institutionalization, which would be better for the patient and the family and would save tens of millions of dollars.
--Sonia Ancoli-Israel, PhD, is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. She is also Director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System. Dr. Ancoli-Israel is author of All I Want Is a Good Night's Sleep .
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of sleepmatters.