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According to a latest study, published in the journal ‘JAMA’, dementia patients’ carers are losing their sleep while caring for their clients and this may affect their overall health adversely. While there’s no denying the fact that dementia patients need a caregiver to take care of them, the carers may be at an increased risk of losing between 2.5 to 3.5 hours of sleep weekly since they face difficulty in getting a sound sleep.
For the study, the team of researchers analysed 35 studies with data from 3,268 caregivers. The searched articles in peer-reviewed journals and books addressing caregivers, sleep, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, published through June 2018 were then analysed. The sleep quality and quantity was measured in the studies by monitoring brain electrical activity, body movements and self-reporting by caregivers.
Informal caregiving for a person with dementia is akin to adding a part-time but unpaid job to one’s life, with family members averaging 21.9 hours of caregiving, according to The Alzheimer’s Association estimates.
Apart from this, the intervention-related changes in sleep quality were also analysed by the researchers such as daytime exercise, not drinking coffee or tea past late afternoon, not drinking alcohol at night and getting more sunlight in the morning.
However, the researchers also suggest that with the help of simple, low-cost interventions, this condition may be improved. Getting more morning sunlight, establishing a regular and relaxing bedtime routine and taking part in moderate physical exercise resulted in better sleep in caregivers.
“Losing 3.5 hours of sleep per week does not seem much, but caregivers often experience accumulation of sleep loss over years,” said lead author Chenlu Gao, a doctoral candidate of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.
“It can have a strong impact on caregivers’ cognition and mental and physical health. But improving caregivers’ sleep quality through low-cost behavioural interventions can significantly improve their functions and quality of life,” said Gao.
Chronic stress is associated with short sleep and poor-quality sleep. Nighttime awakenings by a patient with dementia also can contribute to disturbed sleep in caregivers, researchers said.
“With that extra bit of sleep loss every night, maybe a caregiver now forgets some medication doses or reacts more emotionally than he or she otherwise would,” said co-author Michael Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.
“Given the long-term, potentially cumulative health consequences of poor-quality sleep, as well as the rising need for dementia caregivers worldwide, clinicians should consider sleep interventions not only for the patient but also for the spouse, child or friend who will be providing care,” Gao opined.