Restless Nights in Dementia

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How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia

One of the characteristics of dementia is that of behaviour changes. You and your loved one will have to get used to this. To help you with this, ‘How to deal with changing behaviour in Dementia’ has been written. Restless Night in Dementia and 3 other topics (blog posts) help you to understand the change in behaviour of your loved one and gives you tips on how to deal with it better.

Restless during the night

What is restless behaviour at night? Dementia can cause people to be restless at night. They wake up and then do not fall asleep. They always go in and out of bed. Read the newspaper or make coffee. What also happens a lot is that people wake up in the middle of the night and do not know where they are. And that scares them making it difficult for them to get back to sleep. Or if they live with a partner, wake them up at night because they want to be reassured.

Your interaction changes

It is good to realize that your loved one does not always show this behaviour consciously. The person you are caring for is no longer the same as before the disease. Many caregivers have a hard time dealing with this. They often unconsciously treat their loved one in the same way as they did before the disease. To better cope with the restless nightly behaviour of your loved one, it is important to understand where this behaviour comes from.

Causes and possible solutions

Six different factors can cause the troubled behaviour at night of people with dementia: the dementia itself, their life course, their personality, the space around them, the people around them and their physical condition. You cannot do much about some of those about factors. Meaning you cannot change the course of people’s lives, their personality or the illness itself. It is important to pay attention to these causes, so that you better understand where the behaviour comes from:

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The nocturnal unrest can be caused by the dementia itself. It is known that dementia can cause a disturbance of the sleep-wake rhythm. This is because the part of the brain where the biological clock is located is affected.


The things people have experienced in their lives can influence the way in which their behaviour changes. For example, if someone has always slept poorly, this is unlikely to change if someone develops dementia. What does change is the way someone deals with it. Because of the dementia, he or she often does not realize that it is not the time to get up.


Someone who is quickly insecure or afraid, may react more strongly to the feeling of not knowing where you are. We often see that these people try to hold on to the people they know or objects that are familiar in their environment.

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Other factors can be influenced, in other words: there is a good change that you can do something about it.

Someone’s surroundings

Someone with dementia can wake up at night and no longer know where he or she is. Or not getting the right signals from their environment to go back to sleep, such as a dark room or a clock that tells you it is still night. He or she can also hear sounds that they do not recognize anymore. This person can become anxious because of this. But the cause of unrest during the night can also be very practical: is your loved one comfortable in bed? In general, people fall asleep faster if there is only a small amount of light in the bedroom and when it is as silent as possible. There are some people who only feel comfortable if it is the other way around. People who actually need light (night light) or sound. In addition, all efforts made during the day can help your loved ones fall asleep better.

People in their immediate circle

Your behaviour, or that of someone else in the vicinity of your loved one, can influence the unrest at night. For example, a person with dementia may have little social contact or undertake little during the day, so he or she becomes uses little energy during the day. Another cause may be that someone is sleeping alone and lacks the sense of security. Especially when someone is always used to sleeping together.You can try to discover a pattern in the restless behaviour at night. Is the restless behaviour only there if your loved one has had a quiet day? Or does someone become restless when he or she has to go to the toilet at night?

When someone with dementia lives alone and you suspect that unrest can arise because he or she feels unsafe, you can try to place objects in the bedroom that provide a safe feeling. Such as photos of family members or objects that remind your loved one of the past.

Physical Condition

Your loved one can suffer from physical discomfort, such as stuffiness or pain. This may result in waking up easier or more often. It can also be a side effect of medication or a change in hormone balance. Drinking coffee in the evening is also a possible cause for your loved one’s poor sleep. If your loved one experiences a physical complaint, and is unable to tell about it properly, try to ask about the causes as specifically as possible. Take the time to do this. Consult the doctor if you feel that there is a physical cause. And if you think that the use of coffee has an effect, then think about using decaffeinated coffee.

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We hope that we have been able to help you a little in your effort to deal a little better with the nightly unrest of your loved one. Realize well that not all solutions that you come up with will work (immediately).

Did you enjoy the article? You might also be interested in the following blogs; What is Dementia, Handling wandering behaviour of people with dementia. Or our other topics on behaviour changes in dementia; Suspicious Behaviour, Aggressive Behaviour
Or check Dementia-Friendly Singapore on facebook or theAsianparent Singapore

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