Sleep and Dementia

Getting a good night's sleep maybe a big problem both for the person with dementia and their carers. Here we present a range of information to better understand sleep and dementia. This may help you improve sleep patterns and hence quality of life.

Overview of Dementia

Dementia affects everyone differently and varies in progression. Different brain functions affected may include:

  • change to memory e.g. forgets familiar places
  • language e.g. refers back to first language
  • communication e.g. unable to communicate specific needs
  • recognition e.g. difficulty recognising familiar faces
  • social skills e.g. cannot maintain conversations, isolates from people
  • cognitive skills e.g. unable to remember particular words

Conditions that can Affect Sleep

 Some conditions affect sleep quality in people with dementia including:

  • sleep apnea
  • arthritis
  • restless leg syndrome 
  • depression

For more information refer to the dementia and sleep factsheet.

Types of Dementia

The most common types of dementia are:

  • Alzheimers Disease
  • Vascular
  • Lewy Body
  • Frontotemporal

Stages of Dementia

There are three stages of dementia that a person with dementia will go through; mild, moderate and severe. Each phase of dementia will have different experiences and barriers to tackle. With the help of family members and friends the progression of dementia may be less of a shock.

During all three stages, sleep will be affected.

For more information on dementia visit:

Signs of Dementia

As a carer you might notice the person with dementia doing the following:

  • wandering
  • yelling or calling out
  • acting confused
  • tossing and turning in bed

 Various changes in behaviour and routines and changes to the home can help with sleep.

Carer's Stress

Many carers experience some sort of stress and are at risk of burnout. They can sometimes feel overwhelmed and in a downwards spiral with the pressures of caring for their loved ones. Caregiver stress can result from:

  • constant worry
  • increased responsibilities
  • declining carer health e.g. high blood pressure

Overall stress will have an impact on the carer’s well-being, including their quality of sleep. Support is available for carers and persons with dementia through various organisations listed in the right hand column of this page


Sleep Changes

Your loved one may feel sleepy during the day, have difficulty sleeping through the night or not know when it is time to sleep.

They may have less deep, restful sleep and more lighter sleep. Sundowning can occur because of changes to their sleep/wake cycle. They may become restless or confused in the afternoon and evening. Sleep tips can help your loved one get a better nights sleep.

Dementia Support Organisations

Healthcare teams that can provide

you with support:

Alzheimer’s Australia
Phone: 1800 100 500

(National Dementia Helpline- 24hrs)
The Dementia Centre
Phone: 1300 426 666

Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service
Phone: 1800 699 799

(24 hour phone support)

My Aged Care

Australian Government: Department of Social Services 
Phone: 1800 200 422
Department of Veteran Affairs

Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres
Phone: 1800 059 059

Carers NSW
Phone: 1800 242 636

Commonwealth Carer Resource Centres
1800 242 636