Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 193–204 | Cite as

The Management of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance in Patients with Dementia

  • Qiuping Pearl Zhou
  • Lorena Jung
  • Kathy C. Richards
Sleep (M Thorpy and M Billiard, Section Editors)


Sleep and circadian disturbances are common among patients with dementia. Symptomatic manifestations vary according to dementia subtype, with one commonly shared pattern—the irregular sleep-wake rhythm (ISWR), a circadian disorder characterized by an absence of the sleep-wake cycle’s circadian synchronization. Hypothesized mechanisms of circadian rhythm disturbance include suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) circadian pacemaker damage, pineal gland and melatonin secretion alterations, and reduced zeitbeigers and decreased input to the SCN. Management options include prescribed sleep/wake scheduling, light therapy, melatonin, physical and social activity, and mixed modality. The mixed-modality approach is the most effective method in treating ISWR. Pharmacologic interventions are controversial, with no evidence supporting their effectiveness while associated with multiple side effects. They should be used with caution and only be considered as short-term therapy. All treatment strategies should be individualized to achieve the best outcomes.


Sleep disturbance Circadian rhythm disturbance Irregular sleep-wake rhythm (ISWR) Dementia Alzheimer’s disease Sleep management Light therapy Melatonin therapy Nonpharmacologic interventions Pharmacologic interventions Mixed modality 


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: •Of importance, ••Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiuping Pearl Zhou
    • 1
  • Lorena Jung
    • 1
  • Kathy C. Richards
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Nursing, College of Health and Human ServicesGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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