It was 3 am. My 21 month-old granddaughter, Isabella, tumbled over the side of her crib and padded into her parents’ bedroom. “Watch George Oooo Ahhhh Ahhh,” she asked?
Translation: “Can I watch a Curious George video?” (With monkey sounds.)
Toddlers, like Isabella, eventually learn the difference between night and day. They also learn that Mommy isn’t going to allow TV in the middle of the night.
Many people with Alzheimer’s also wake during the night, and they stay awake longer. However, unlike children, they cannot learn to re-pattern their behavior. Some completely reverse their days and nights.
We are the ones that need to work around their schedule.
Marshall’s gone through periods when he’s been awake most of the night. He’ll get dressed at 2, 3, or 4 am and want breakfast. It was difficult for me when he was home because I couldn’t get any sleep and had very full days. Now that Marshall is in a memory care home, caregivers encourage him to go back to bed but he can be up, watch TV or do a quiet activity as long as he doesn’t disturb other residents.
Scientists do not fully understand why this disruption of sleep patterns happens. They do know that brain wave studies show decreases in both dreaming and non-dreaming sleep stages. Other contributing factors likely include daytime napping, depression, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea.
Solutions may be found in limited physical activity during the day, less stimulation toward evening, a darkened room at bedtime, and limited daytime napping. In some cases, medication may help but studies find that often this may have little effect and increase the chance of falls.