Nav: Home

Caregivers of people with dementia are losing sleep

August 23, 2019

Caregivers of people with dementia lose between 2.5 to 3.5 hours of sleep weekly due to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep -- a negative for themselves and potentially for those who receive their care, Baylor University researchers say.

But the good news is that simple, low-cost interventions can improve caregivers' sleep and functioning.

The researchers' analysis of 35 studies with data from 3,268 caregivers -- "Sleep Duration and Sleep Quality in Caregivers of Patients with Dementia" -- is published in JAMA Network Open, a publication of the American Medical Association.

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.

"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. "Losing 3.5 hours of sleep weekly on top of all the stress, grief and sadness can have a really strong impact on caregivers' cognition and mental and physical health. But improving caregivers' sleep quality through low-cost behavioral interventions can significantly improve their functions and quality of life."

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.

"Caregivers are some of the most inspiring and hardest-working people in the world, but sleep loss eventually accumulates to a level that diminishes one's vigilance and multi-tasking."

Notably better sleep was observed in caregivers after such simple behaviors as getting more morning sunlight, establishing a regular and relaxing bedtime routine and taking part in moderate physical exercise.

In the United States, 16 million family caregivers give long-term care for dementia patients. Dementia affects some 50 million adults globally and is expected to increase to 131 million by 2050, according to the World Alzheimer Report. The global annual cost is nearing $1 trillion, largely due to patients' loss of independence because of problems with eating, bathing and grooming, incontinence and memory loss.

For the analysis, researchers searched articles in peer-reviewed journals and books addressing caregivers, sleep, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, published through June 2018. Those studies measured sleep quality and quantity by monitoring brain electrical activity, body movements and self-reporting by caregivers.

The difference in time and quality of sleep was significant when compared to non-caregivers in the same age range and with the recommended minimum of sleep: seven hours nightly for adults. Researchers also analyzed intervention-related changes in sleep quality, such as daytime exercise, not drinking coffee or tea past late afternoon, not drinking alcohol at night and getting more sunlight in the morning.

Researchers noted that four theories about sleep in dementia caregivers have emerged in studies:
  • The controversial "sleep need" view that older adults need less sleep than younger ones. If so, caregivers should report less sleep time but without changes in perceived sleep quality.

  • The "empowerment view," which argues that caregiving is a positive, enriching experience, and so sleep quality should be unchanged or even improved.

  • The "environmental stressor view," which holds that the caregiving is so stressful and unpredictable that caregivers would be unable to change their routine in such a way to benefit their sleep.

  • The "coping" view that health problems may be driven by unhealthy responses to stress, such as increased alcohol use and less exercise, while interventions should be associated with better sleep.
Baylor researchers' analysis found that caregivers slept less and perceived their sleep quality to be worsening. That means that they were not simply adapting - or not "needing" - sleep. Importantly, caregivers could improve their sleep through behavioral changes, as expected by the "coping" view of caregiving.

"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 said.
-end-
  • This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    Baylor University

    Related Science Articles:

    75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
    The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.
    Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
    The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
    Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
    Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.
    Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
    While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.
    Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
    Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.
    World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
    On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.
    PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
    The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.
    Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
    James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.
    Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
    The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.
    Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
    Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.
  • Trending Science News

    Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

    Top Science Podcasts

    We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
    Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

    Climate Mindset
    In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
    Now Playing: Science for the People

    #562 Superbug to Bedside
    By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
    Now Playing: Radiolab

    Speedy Beet
    There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.