Up to 35% of persons with Alzheimer's also experience sleep disturbances. This can result in significant distress, and not just for your loved one or client. Witnessing someone's discomfort or pain can cause considerable distress for caregivers, also.

What's the cause—and what's the treatment? 

Multiple factors go into sleep disturbances when paired with Alzheimer's, per this Psychiatry Advisor article. As the disease progresses, so do "physiological changes related to normal aging...comorbid medical and psychiatric conditions and environmental and behavioral factors." 

As well, medications may adversely affect normal sleep patterns.

While there are also medications used to manage sleep disorders, research into their efficacy remains limited. Even more troubling, many of those medications are linked to adverse events such as confusion, increased risk for falls, and increased mortality.

Fortunately, there are non-pharmacological approaches to try, though we need to keep in mind that there is also limited research into these, as well. 

One such approach is light therapy. Per the guidelines, if someone with Alzheimer's tends to fall asleep early in the evening, and awaken too early in the morning, they should be deliberately exposed to bright light in the evening. Conversely, if the person falls asleep later and awakens later, the bright light exposure should occur early in the morning.

Learn about other non-pharmacological treatments, such as nonstrenuous physical activity and nutritional approaches, in "Treating Sleep Disorders in Alzheimer's Patients."