Family members looking after dementia relatives lose out on their forty-winks

A recent study found that caregivers to a person with dementia perceived their sleep as poor, with their quality of sleep was even worse.

The study was carried out by the University at Buffalo School of Nursing and reported that approximately 90% of those caring for a relative with dementia experience poor sleep. It also found the majority of these carers get less than six hours of sleep a night and many woke up, on average four times an hour.

Yu-Ping Chang, lead author of the study, said: “Though memory loss is the best-known symptom of dementia, more than 80% of people with dementia will also experience sleep disturbances, anxiety and wandering. These disruptions have negative effects on caregivers’ health, which in turn will diminish their ability to provide optimal care.”

Different to other studies of its kind, the data that was used was self-reported. The study took measurements from an objective viewpoint offering a more accurate picture of the quality of sleep a dementia caregiver can expect to get.

The study tested 43 primary dementia caregivers, all over the age of 50, and were monitored using a specialist watch throughout the research period – it measured the amount of sleep time, efficiency of the rest and number of times they woke over a seven-day period.

Participants kept a sleep diary and it emerged 92% of the carers were found to have poor sleep quality – falling below the recommended seven to eight hours.

Chang added: “Understanding how well caregivers are sleeping and the variables that affect them is an important first step toward the development of tailored and effective treatment. This would help the millions of caregivers receive the optimum sleep needed to protect their health and continue to provide quality care.”

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