Reclaiming lost shut-eye

A new WA study will investigate the link between dementia and sleep disturbances, and help those living with the disease and carers to get some much-needed shut-eye.

Above: UWA PhD candidate, Michelle Hodge.

By Yasmin Noone

West Australian researchers will attempt to help people with dementia and their carers achieve disturbance-free sleep by investigating the relationship between the disease and commonly experienced sleep disorders.

Marking the first of its kind, the University of Western Australia study will not only help people with dementia to better understand the cause of their sleep-related disorder or disturbance but it will provide the carer with the information they need to get a good night’s rest.

“There have been earlier studies that have looked at one aspect of sleep and its relationship with [specific] symptoms,” lead researcher, Michelle Hodge,  said.

“This is one of the first to expand on that and look at every avenue of sleep disturbances.

“We want to look at all the aspects or disorders like sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome [and more] and find out what their relationships are to dementia.

“So this study is quite new and inventive as we are hoping to tease part of this really complex relationship between sleep and dementia out. “

Ms Hodge, a PhD student from UWA’s School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, said very little is currently known about the sleep issues associated with dementia, and any relationship between these sleep problems and dementia symptoms.

This is in spite of the fact that commonly experienced sleep problems could have a huge impact on a person’s day-to-day life and be related to depression, cognitive problems, functional impairments in daily living and treatment response.

“Sleep, as we all know, is just so important to good health and good mental health, whether you have dementia or not.

“Sleep disturbances are [listed] as one of the main reasons why people with dementia are put into aged care facilities…as it places a [huge] burden on carers if they have to constantly get up through the night.

“Sleep impacts as much on a person with dementia as it does the person looking after them. So it’s important for [us] to help people alleviate some of the sleep-related symptoms that might occur when a person has dementia.”

The UWA researchers are now calling for people living with dementia and their carers to get involved in the study by completing a sleep questionnaire.

Ms Hodge said participation, which is a ‘one-off’, requires both the carer and the person with dementia (with or without assistance) to spend about 40 minutes filling out a questionnaire on their sleeping habits.

The survey will be available for the next 18 months but Ms Hodge encourages people to get involved as soon as possible. Around 200 participants are needed.

“Because it is a questionnaire based on a person’s sleeping habits, a lot of the information we will receive about sleep will come from the carers,” she said. 

“It’s really important that we get a good range of people participating in the study so we can get a better picture of what’s going on with sleep and how it interacts with the other symptoms of dementia.

“…We need a lot of people to get involved so we can find out the real relationship between sleep disturbances and dementia.”

To find out more or to get involved, contact Michelle Hodge on 08-9347 6402.

Tags: alzheimers-disease, carers, dementia, michelle-hodge, rest, rls, sleep, sleep-apoenea, university-of-western-australia, uwa,

1 thought on “Reclaiming lost shut-eye

  1. Hi Michelle
    This is great article and i was wondering if you’d mind me featuring a condensed version in our next client newsletter to see if we can get some of our clients to participate with the research. I work for Brightwater At Home services which provides personal care, etc to aged clients in their own home, some with dementia. We send a bi-monthly newsletter featuring age relevant information and adivce approx 700 circ.

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