Some people with dementia become increasingly confused and anxious in the evening.
For example, they may believe that they need to go home, even if they are already at home, or that they have to collect their children from school, but they are now adults.
They may pace, shout, argue or try to leave the house.
This is known as sundowning – see Sources of support, below, for more information.
Having a nightly routine can be reassuring and calming for the person with dementia and help prevent sundowning. You could try:
supporting the person to have a warm bath or shower, or to sit with a warm hot water bottle in a cover, or a cosy blanket
drawing the curtains and turning on lights before dusk, so the person is less aware of the change from daylight to darkness
spending some relaxing time together, eg listening to music or reading a chapter of a book to them
switching off the TV an hour before bed
keeping mobile phones, tablets or computers out of the bedroom, or setting them to night-time mode – this will help to prevent overstimulation and exposure to ‘blue light’, which can affect sleep patterns
Being safe, warm and comfortable in bed will help the person with dementia settle and sleep well throughout the night.
Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature – 18-21˚C suits most people
Make sure the person’s nightwear is comfortable and suitable for the season
If they wear incontinence products, check that these are comfortable and will last the night
Ensure their bedding is suitable for the weather and comfortable to sleep in. Many people prefer soft fabrics and a heavier top cover. You could also use a hot water bottle or electric blanket to warm their bed, but don’t use them overnight as they may cause overheating
Make sure the person can lie comfortably. You could provide extra pillows to help with this, or there are many types of support cushion available to buy, such as V-shaped pillows and wedge cushions
Put an easy-to-read clock next to their bed if they are able to tell the time, so if they wake, they are more likely to understand whether it’s time to get up
Use blackout curtains or blinds, especially in the lighter summer months, and draw them at the same time each evening
If the person tends to get up in the night to use the toilet or walk around, leave a nightlight on in their room, hallway and/or bathroom
Sometimes, medication can aid sleep, but this must only be used under the guidance of a GP or pharmacist.
If you have any questions about helping a person with dementia with sleep, or any other aspect of dementia, call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm, every day except 25th December) or email email@example.com