elderly lady with carer

New research could improve sleep deprivation in dementia patients

The University of Exeter have launched two new research programmes which will look to help find new ways to support people with dementia in improving their sleep.

Those suffering with dementia can commonly experience difficulties sleeping but also can get too much sleep with 90 percent of sufferers experiencing sleep problems.

Prescribed sleeping tablets can often be harmful to people with dementia and can do more harm than good to patients.

According to the university, sleep problems can have a significant impact on overall health, making falls and pre existing medical conditions worse and can increase death rates.

The two programmes will research and provide answers to improving the sleep of dementia sufferers in their homes and in care facilities.

The study has been awarded £2.4 million by the National Institue for Health and Research (NIHR) and will be a collaborative study conducted by teams from the universities or Oxford, Hull, Leicester, UCL, Aston University and East Anglia.

Study lead Professor Chris Fox, University of Exeter, said: “Sleep disturbance can have a major impact on daily living for people living with dementia or memory problems, and can make it difficult for carers to cope. Many different factors can upset sleep, so help needs to be tailored to individuals. Medicines help some people, but sleep medicines used long-term can be harmful or stop working. Our study will help people find the best approach for them.”

Sleep problems in those with dementia is more common in care homes due to sleep disturbances which can lead to harmful medications being prescribed to promote sleep.

The second study, the NightCAP study, which has been funded £400,000 by Alzehiemer’s Society, will test a training programme for care staff which will provide them with better skills to improve night-time care.

Sian Gregory, Research Information Manager at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Sleep problems are common for many of the 900,000 people living with dementia. Recent studies have shown nearly one third of people living with dementia in care homes have issues with their sleep, affecting their overall quality of life during an already challenging time.

“As one of the biggest funders of dementia care research in the UK, Alzheimer’s Society is proud to be funding the NightCAP study. It’s vital we find safe and effective ways to manage sleeping difficulties which can replace existing methods such as prescribing harmful drugs associated with trips and falls. We want to empower and support dedicated care home staff to provide the very best care.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the results as NightCAP begin testing in care homes, so we can support people living with dementia to have a better night’s sleep.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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