It’s common for people with dementia to experience sleep problems. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this happens, although it’s thought to be linked to disturbances in the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) caused by changes in the brain from dementia.
Generally speaking, elderly people tend to have shorter sleep cycles, but it may also be that the person is napping more during the day, which leads to them waking more regularly during the night. This can all lead to a range of issues that might occur during the night, from wandering and disorientation to falls and discomfort.
This is why it’s so important to think about what you can do to make going to bed and falling asleep as calming and straightforward as possible. Whether it’s sensors to let you know if someone has got (or fallen) out of bed, to special beds that make it easier to sit up in bed, click on the links below to find out which products can help with sleep.

Beds

Your dilemma
You or the person you care for spends quite a bit of time in bed, perhaps because of limited mobility, or because they’re in the final stages of dementia. You want to create a comforting place to lie and sleep, but you often have to rely on piles of cushions to get them into a suitable position.
Products to help
- Adjustable or profiling beds

These can be useful for someone who is bedridden, as they can move from lying down to sitting up at the touch of a button. Special motors will move the mattress slats into different positions, which let you raise your head, feet or both. They can be useful for pushing you up into a position which is then easier to get out of bed from.
- Baratric beds
These are designed for plus size patients who may not fit onto a regular bed. They are adjustable beds, but wider and capable of holding a heavier person.
- Hospital beds
If you need to move someone around while they’re in bed – for example, moving them from the bedroom to the living room, hospital beds can be useful as they are on wheels.
These products are good for…
Providing comfort for someone who is less mobile, and making it easier for carers to move their patient around.
Good to know
You’ll need a specific mattress for adjustable beds – memory foam is best – as mattresses with springs are not flexible enough to be bent into different shapes.

Bed accessories

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for wants to be able to carry on with activities such as eating, reading or relaxing while in bed, but doesn’t feel comfortable using a regular lap tray or turning on the bedside lamp.
Products to help
- Overbed tables and trays
These are tables that are specially designed for placing over the bed – similar to what you might have in a hospital, so you can rest food or activities on them.
- Reading rests
These are similar to overbed tables, but can often be angled to hold a book or magazine so you can easily read them without having to hold it up.
- Magnifiers and lights
Eyesight problems are common as you get older, but if you enjoy reading books and magazines in bed, magnifiers can be useful. Some come with integrated reading lights, too.
These products are good for…
Allowing the person you care for to carry on with enjoyable activities if they are stuck in bed, reducing anxiety and restlessness. They provide a source of comfort and boost independence.
Top tip
Overbed tables can also be used when sat in an armchair.

Mattresses

Your dilemma
The person you care for is bedbound and spends most, if not all, of their time lying down. Because of this, you’re worried they’ll end up with pressure sores.
Products to help
- Pressure cushions and mattresses

These are designed to support the body, without putting pressure on the skin, which can lead to sores. If you remain in the same position for a long period of time and can’t move to release the pressure, it can lead to the tissues being damaged, but special cushions and mattresses are designed to alleviate it.
These products are good for…
Providing comfort for those who can no longer get out of bed and helping to prevent bed sores, which can lead to infection.
Good to know
Pressure care mattresses are VAT exempt if you’re eligible.

Bedding

Your dilemma
The person you care for is no longer safe and secure in their bed. They’re prone to falling out, or struggle to get themselves into a position where they can easily move around, sit up, or get out of bed.
Products to help
- Pillows and supports
Placing specially shaped pillows and supports around the person you’re caring for can help get them into a position that they find comfortable, meaning they can sit and read or watch TV easily.
- Easy move sheets
If you struggle to move around in bed and change position, easy move sheets could be useful. They’re made of slippery, shiny material (usually satin), which let your limbs move around more easily than regular cotton sheets. They often have a section of the sheet which is made of a rougher cotton material, or provide somewhere to grip or push against. You can also get special slide sheets – usually with special handles – that help you move someone onto a bed.
- Anti-slide sheets
On the flip side, are sheets that prevent slipping, particularly if you find the person you care for slides down the bed from a sitting position. An anti-slide sheet helps someone get in and out of bed safely without the risk of slipping off the edge of the bed, thanks to an anti-slip panel that sits on the edge of the bed.
- Bed bumpers and rails
Designed to help keep someone in their bed so they don’t roll out, bumpers and rails are useful for helping people with dementia feel secure and giving carers peace of mind. They can also provide a handle for you to lean on to help either pull yourself into a sitting position, or to get up and off the bed.
- Fall out mats and detectors
If you’re worried about someone falling out of their bed and not being able to get up, you can fit fall out mats. These help to cushion people if they fall on the floor. Alternatively, you can set up a pressure mat by the side of the bed, which will detect if anyone falls (or steps) on it during the night.
- Heated bedding
Providing a warm and cosy bed for the person with dementia may help to decrease feelings of restlessness and discomfort associated with being cold. Heated bedding, warm blankets and other similar items can be a great way of doing so. Making the person in question comfortable promotes feelings of calm and contentment.
These products are good for…
Boosting comfort and keeping someone safe and secure while in bed.
Top tip
Think carefully about whether to use bed rails. If the person you’re caring for is likely to wake up and try to climb over the rail, and potentially put themselves at more risk of injury, you might be best off with a bed bumper, which while helping to prevent someone falling out of bed, won’t provide such a barrier.

Mobility and transfers

Your dilemma
You struggle to move the person you care for around the bedroom, particularly, getting them up and out of bed. You’re worried about your strength and the health of your back and need extra support.
Products to help
- Handling and transfer belts
These are special belts that are worn by the person with limited mobility to help move them from a bed, for example, to a chair or wheelchair. The belts are sturdy, and have special handles and grips to ensure you have a secure hold.
- Turning cushions and turntables
These are special cushions that are shaped like a disc or circle. The top layer of cushion can be swivelled round on top of the base, so if the person you’re caring for has trouble twisting to get out of a chair, this will do the movement for them.
- Curved transfer boards & glide sheets
If you need to move someone from a wheelchair to a bed, a curved transfer board can be very useful. It allows them to shuffle across the board and onto the bed. However, they will need to have reasonable upper body strength to do it on their own, or support from you if not. You can also get straight transfer boards. Glide sheets let you move someone up the bed. They have slip-resistant material in the bottom part of the sheet, which locks it into place, and helps them avoid the risk of slipping off the bed as well as reducing the effects of friction on the skin.
- Bed raisers
These are special blocks or feet that go on the bottom of a bed to help raise it by a few inches. It’s useful if the bed is very low and you struggle to get up from it easily.
- Rising aids
Rising aids are used to help pull you up into an upright position while you’re in bed. They can be in the form of rails, which go alongside the bed, poles, hoists and even a bed rope ladder, which you ‘climb’ up with your hands until you’re in a sitting position.
- Hoists
These are usually free-standing pieces of equipment which allow a carer to move someone from a bed to a chair, for example, by sliding them onto a hammock-style chair which hangs from the hoist, and then moving them onto the chair. They can be useful if you don’t have enough strength to lift the person yourself.
These products are good for…
Helping a carer feel more supported when moving someone around the bedroom. It can also let the person who needs moving feel safe and secure.
Top tip
If you’re regularly having to help someone in and out of bed, be mindful of your own health, particularly your back. Carer back injuries are extremely common. However, your local council, or local carers' organisation, should be able to tell you about training opportunities in how to lift and move more safely to reduce the risk of harming your back. You should also be entitled to a carer's assessment which is where social services will come and look at your home to tell you if you’re eligible to receive equipment such as those above to help you move the person you’re caring for.

Wandering

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for has suddenly started getting up in the night and walking around. Not only is this disturbing your sleep, and causing lots of stress, it’s also putting them at risk from falls.
Products to help
- Night lights
Whether you want to set a soft mood light to relax before bed, or need a bedside light that is easy to reach for and operate in the middle of the night, ensuring that the room is easily lit will help someone with dementia feel calm and find their way if they need to get up in the night. You can get night lights that switch on if they detect movement, so useful if someone is walking around but can’t find the light switch easily.
- Bed alarms
These can either come in the form of a bedside motion detector alarm, so if the person you’re caring for gets up in the night, an alarm will sound to let you know that they’ve got up. Or, it will detect pressure on the bed and sound an alarm if there is nobody in the bed for a certain amount of time.
- Floor alarms
Floor alarms work in the same way as bed alarms, in that they can detect if someone has got out of bed and stepped onto the floor to wander off.
- Door alarms
These are fixed near to doors, anywhere in the house including the bedroom, to monitor if someone goes through the door. You can get magnetic door alarms which are triggered when a door is opened and the magnetic connection is broken.
These products are good for…
Alerting carers to the challenge of night-time wandering and putting your mind at ease at night, meaning you’re more likely to have a more restful night’s sleep. It can also help to keep someone with dementia safe and secure.
Good to know
Many sensor mats are light in colour, rather than dark, which is useful as dark colours on the floor can make someone with dementia think it’s a hole in the ground (due to visual-spatial problems caused by changes in the brain), causing them to try and step round or over the mat.

Nightwear

Your dilemma
You help the person you care for to get dressed each evening, but want to ensure that the clothing they wear is comfortable, easy to put on and remove if they need to use the bathroom during the night.
- Bed jackets and wraps
These are useful for keeping someone warm if they’re sat up in bed watching TV or reading. They’re similar to a dressing gown, but shorter, so easily worn while you’re in bed. Some have easy-access sleeves, meaning they have buttons or zips that go from the wrist opening up the arm, to make it easy for you to put your arms through them.
- Nightdresses and pyjamas
Many nightdresses and pyjamas can be difficult to get into, particularly those that you have to pull on over your head. Opting for open-back nightdresses, night shirts and side-opening pyjamas will make getting into them much easier.
- Bed socks
Poor circulation is a common ailment for older people, which can leave them with cold hands and feet. Bed socks are an easy solution to keep someone warm at night.
These products are good for…
Helping someone feel warm, comfortable and contented when in bed or asleep.
Top tip
Back opening nightwear is useful if the person you’re caring for is bed bound as you can easily pull it on over their arms and head without them having to get into a standing position.

Incontinence

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for often struggles to get to the toilet on time and often incontinent. The problem can be particularly bad at night.
Products to help
- Waterproof bedding
Useful for protecting mattresses, pillows and duvets, waterproof bedding will create a barrier to protect the bedding if the person you’re caring for suffers from incontinence.
- Washable bedding
This is bedding that can be used as a protector against incontinence, but is washable. They usually sit between the mattress or pillow and the sheet or pillow case to act as an extra layer.
- Bed pans & urinals
If the person you care for struggles to get up and go to the bathroom during the night, it may be more useful to have a bed pan or urinal to hand so they don’t need to go far. Urinals can be adapted for both men and women to make it easy to go without having to leave your bed if it’s not possible.
- Incontinence alarms
These are special sheets fitted with a sensor that can detect wetness, alerting the sleeper or their carer of incontinence issues.
- Incontinence underwear/pads
If you’re worried about incontinence at night, you might find it easier to give the person you care for incontinence underwear or pads. These are super-absorbent, so soak up any liquid that is released. The pads can be made to suit both light to moderate and moderate to heavy incontinence problems. Incontinence underwear has absorbent material built in, rather than having to stick the pad to the underwear. They can be either washable and reusable, or disposable.
- Sofa and chair protectors
These are similar to bed and mattress protectors – special waterproof or absorbent material that helps to protect sofas and chairs if someone is experiencing incontinence problems.
These products are good for…
Promoting better hygiene, comfort while sleeping and maintaining dignity where possible for someone affected by dementia.
Top tip
If the person you’re caring for doesn’t want to use urinals or bedpans, they may prefer to use a bedside commode.

Sleep therapies

Your dilemma
The person you care for becomes agitated before bed, and struggles to relax to fall asleep.
Products to help
- Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, to help boost mood and wellbeing and aid relaxation. It can be very beneficial for people with dementia in helping to relax them if they’re feeling very agitated or restless. For example, you could put a few drops of lavender essential oil (ideal for relaxation) on a tissue or handkerchief and leave it near their pillow to help them feel calmer.
- Foot bath
A footbath can be a useful part of the evening routine or as an alternative to a full bath or shower, to help someone relax before bedtime. Put a few drops of shower gel or foam bath to make it feel more luxurious, and use the time afterwards as an opportunity to attend to any foot issues such as removing dry or hard skin, and cutting toenails.
- Muscle massage
Massage is, of course, relaxing for anyone. But it can be particularly useful for someone affected by dementia if they’re amenable to it. Start with a simple hand massage using a plain carrier oil, and then work your way up the wrists and arms. A gentle head and shoulder massage could also help someone feel calm and aid sleep.
- Doll therapy
Doll therapy, also known as cuddle therapy, is where someone with dementia is given a doll to cuddle and look after. Sometimes it’s a teddybear or soft toy rather than a doll. It’s thought to work by bringing back happy memories of early parenthood and help make seniors feel useful and needed.
These products are good for…
Aiding relaxation and helping to aid sleep, and reducing agitated or restless behaviour.
Good to know
A study completed in 2007 found that doll therapy could be used to increase positive behaviours and decrease negative behaviours in people with dementia. Researchers concluded that such therapy was an effective approach in caring for older people with dementia. However, it’s not without its critics. Some families find it upsetting to see their loved ones treated like children, and see doll therapy as demeaning and patronising. Ultimately, it’s up to the carer as to what they think works for them in terms of helping the person they care for feel happy and relaxed.