Memory loss and confusion are the two most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. But doctors say the disease can also disrupt a patient’s sleep pattern. “Alzheimer’s disease really does have some impact on sleep. In fact when someone has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s sometimes you have sleep disturbances, insomnia, and circadian rhythm disorder predate the diagnosis by sometimes a decade,” said Dr. Jose Colon, sleep medicine physician with Lee Health.
Alzheimer’s disease causes brain cells to degenerate and die, causing memory loss and eventually impacting a patient’s mental functions. “The same degeneration of brain cells that you have that help cognition also are along the path of the melatonin path and the circadian path,” said Dr. Colon.
Our circadian rhythm is our body’s internal clock, telling us when to go to sleep and when to wake up. When a patient’s circadian rhythm is affected by Alzheimer’s, it can cause them to sleep during the day.
“Their patterns can be disrupted. Sometimes they do end up sleeping more,” he said.
Doctors say regularizing a patient’s sleep schedule is important. “You do want to put extra emphasis on having a regular wake up time, getting light in the morning, and having a good routine in the evening to try to reinforce night sleep,” said Dr. Colon.
A task that can become more challenging as the disease progresses. “In patients with Alzheimer’s that are having sleep-wake disturbances, melatonin can be helpful. Melatonin is a very powerful antioxidant and has some neuroprotective properties,” he said.
Recognizing any sleep disturbances and addressing them with your doctor can help patients with Alzheimer’s disease have a better quality of life.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.