Alzheimer's Disease and Sleep

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acetylcholine, a chemical which is essential to brain function. In addition, a drug called memantine is used to treat moderate to severe AD. It works by regulating glutamate, a chemical in the brain that is important to learning and memory. AD patients may also benefit from antidepressant, antipsychotic, and sedating medications.

Drug therapies can improve symptoms in some patients, but behavioral approaches to treating AD are also very effective and should be an essential part of a disease management program. For example, memory training may help AD patients with forgetfulness and psychotherapy may alleviate symptoms of depression. Getting adequate sleep on a regular schedule is also critical to the management of AD symptoms. Behavioral therapies, including those for sleep problems, also target families and caregivers of AD patients and can be an important part of the treatment plan for AD. If nighttime awakening is a problem, try to avoid or curtail naps.

The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health identifies many forms of dementia, all of which have many of the same effects as Alzheimer's disease. AD is the most prevalent form of dementia, though the second leading cause of impaired cognitive function in older adults is multi-infarct dementia which is actually caused by a series of often imperceptible strokes. Some forms of dementia may be cured or managed if accurately diagnosed and treated. That is why it is important to actively seek out answers to signs of memory loss.

COPING:

  • Create an ideal sleep environment
  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Get into bright light soon after waking
  • Keep lighting dim as bedtime approaches
  • Create simple routines for accomplishing everyday tasks
  • Create a safe environment - keep dangerous items such as guns, knives, and matches out of reach
  • Use labels and reminder notes to help accomplish daily tasks such as dressing and food preparations
  • Get some form of exercise every day
  • Schedule as many activities as appropriate for the patient and caregiver

POLL DATA:

According to NSF's 2003 Sleep in America poll adults with memory problems are more likely than those without memory problems to experience