• Nikki Latham

Research To Improve Sleep For People With Dementia

Two research programmes let by the University Of Exeter are seeking answers to help support better sleep, with dementia, both for people living at home and in care homes.

Across the world, around 55 million people have dementia and up to 90% of them experience problems with their sleep. Too much or too little can have impacts on health, leading to falls and/or worsening symptoms. Medication is not an option for most dementia sufferers.

The TaIlored ManagEment of Sleep (TIMES) study will develop a tool to help people with dementia and other memory problems, by producing care plans that are tailored to each persons need. This study has been funded with £2.4 million for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the team combined expertise from many universities across the UK and Innovations In Dementia.

Study lead Professor Chris Fox, from the 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.”

In care homes, sleep disturbance is common, which has been shown to lead to a poorer quality of life and worsening dementia. The NightCAP study is testing a training programme for care staff to provide them with skills and strategies to improve night-time care. This study is being funded by an award from Alzheimer's Society of £400,000 and again a collaboration among universities to support this.

Study lead Dr Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter, said: “We know there’s an urgent need to support care staff and help them to use practical, effective ways of caring for their residents who are up in the night. Night shifts in care homes are often understaffed and we know that there is very little training provided for staff working these hours. There is also a need to increase awareness amongst staff and GPs about the importance of reviewing hypnotic drug prescriptions and only using them in people who really need them. We’re now looking for care homes to join us, to put our NightCAP staff training programme to the test so we can establish what really works to improve night times for staff and for residents.”

Care home staff who are not already involved in NightCAP can contact the team at: Nightcaptrial@exeter.ac.uk

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