elderly woman and family member chatting with kincare worker around the kitchen bench with tea

Get a good night’s rest with these carer’s tips

by KinCare — 15 January 2018

Getting enough rest is essential for everyone, but can be difficult when you are caring for someone living with dementia.

International studies have shown that approximately 70% of carers for people with dementia report sleep problems, 60% report sleeping less than 7 hours – are you struggling to get enough sleep?

Being sleep deprived and struggling to get a good night’s sleep is a very common reason for carers to place a loved one in a residential facility so understanding management strategies is an important part of care.

Getting enough sleep is possible, and we’ve compiled some simple tips to help you manage the cause of disturbed nights.

Use these tips to develop an action plan that promotes positive sleep patterns and a good night’s sleep for you and your loved one.

It may also be good to record any causes of sleep deprivation and the action you plan to take so you can track what is working and where improvements can be made.

Need time to recharge?

KinCare’s Flexible Respite service gives carers the opportunity to take a well-earned break – whether it’s a few hours a week or a short holiday. With KinCare you can have peace of mind your loved one is being well cared for.

Is the person you care for hungry or thirsty?

  • Try eating dinner later
  • Plan a light snack or cup of warm milk before bedtime
  • Ensure they drink plenty of fluids during the day, and be conscious of fluid intake at night to reduce disturbances

Is the room too hot or too cold?

  • Think about using a heater or air-conditioner with thermostatic control
  • Adjust the room ventilation and consider insulations such as curtains
  • Check that your loved one’s clothing and bedding suit the room temperature

Is the room too bright or dark?

  • Close the blinds/curtains
  • Use a soft background light to reduce confusion for your loved one if they wake during the night

Has your loved one had too much caffeine?

  • Think about reducing the intake of tea, coffee and chocolate
  • Look for caffeine-free tea and coffee options
  • Avoid caffeine intake later in the day 

Is the bed uncomfortable?

  • Does your loved one need an extra pillow or softer mattress?
  • Are their bed clothes too light or restrictive?
  • If blankets are too heavy, consider a light weight doona or quilt

 Does your loved one need to go to the bathroom?

  • Ensure they use the bathroom before bed
  • Leave the bathroom light on or install a night-light to guide the way during the night
  • Try a commode chair if mobility is an issue

Is your loved one easily disturbed once in bed?

  • Avoid noisy activities, such as doing the washing, once they have gone to bed
  • Keep the television/radio volume low
  • Ask family members and visitors to keep the volume down

Are you disturbing your loved one by checking on them too often?

  • Avoid turning the light on to check everything is okay
  • Ensure the door doesn’t squeak when opened
  • If your loved one is quiet, resist the urge to enter the bedroom

Other tips to promote good sleeping patterns for both of you –

  • Ensure you are up at a similar time each day to develop a routine. Try to minimise any sleeping during the day.
  • Consider some light activity during the day to help promote sleep.
  • Establish a routine at night which includes winding down and doing quiet activities in the lead up to bed. Consider a warm cup of milk.
  • Aromatherapy can be helpful – try lavender oil on the pillow for relaxation.

Specialist advice

Sometimes specialist advice may be needed to help overcome disruptions during the night. Seek specialist help where required and keep your GP up to date with any changes. The following tips can help you determine whether to seek additional support.

Does your loved one suffer from incontinence?

  • Consult a continence advisor or your GP to discuss options such as medication or continence aids.
  • Technology solutions may include eneuresis detectors on the bed

Are they restles or agitated due to pain?

  • Identify any potential reason for the pain or discomfort
  • Make sure any pain medication is taken as directed
  • Consult your local doctor or nurse for a specialised pain assessment

Has confusion suddenly increased?

  • Consult your doctor and check for the possibility of infections e.g. urinary tract infections or chest infections
  • Consider any changes to routine or environment which may have impacted in some way

Are you concerned your loved one will wander during the night?

  • If you are concerned about falls or other harm, consider placing a sensor mat next to the bed. This will alert you if they get up in the night

Is your loved one disturbed by halluncinations or delusions?

  • Discuss with your doctor and considering seeing a psychogeriatrician
  • Consult KinCare’s dementia team or Alzheimer’s Australia for specific management strategies

Tips to help you as the carer

Taking care of your own health and wellbeing is extremely important. The following advice can help you get good night’s sleep and recharge for the next day.

  • Eat regularly and maintain a diet of nutritional foods.
  • Book regular respite to allow you to have a break. Overnight respite, where a KinCare Home Care Worker can attend to any needs during the night, can let you get a proper rest. KinCare offers Flexible Respite that can support you, find out about Flexible Respite options. (link)
  • If you are still getting interrupted sleep, consider asking family and friends to help out out with a roster, taking it in turns to get up during the night.
  • Consider going for a walk or doing light exercises to manage stress levels and promote good sleep patterns for yourself.

If you need more information or support, call KinCare 1300 702 319.