Sleep Pattern Differences Between Older Adult Dementia Caregivers and Older Adult Noncaregivers Using Objective and Subjective Measures

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Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, caregivers, sleep, nighttime activity


Study Objectives: Informal caregivers of persons with dementia often complain about poor quality sleep; however, studies on caregivers have mixed results when examining sleep values. The purpose of this study was to describe the sleep patterns in a subset of dementia caregivers who provide care during the night, and compare those patterns to noncaregiving adults.

Methods: Data from a study on dementia caregivers and from a study of sleep in older adults were used. Both studies used objective and subjective methods to measure sleep in the home setting over a 7-day period. Participants were over 60 years old and relatively healthy.

Results: Older dementia caregivers had worse objectively measured sleep than noncaregiving older adults, characterized by fewer minutes asleep and longer time to fall asleep. For subjectively measured sleep, depressive symptoms were the only predictive factor, with depressed participants reporting longer total sleep time, greater sleep onset latency, and wake after sleep onset. Caregivers' sleep had greater night-to-night variability.

Conclusions: Caregivers consistently report poorer quality sleep and greater fatigue than noncaregivers. However, when sleep is measured objectively and subjectively, a mixed picture emerges regarding sleep deficits. Thus sleep changes are caused by a multitude of factors affecting sleep in a variety of ways. It is important for health care providers to assess sleep adequacy and depression in caregivers.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, v.4, issue 4, p.362-369