Sleep problems are common in people living with dementia, with around 40% of people living with dementia experiencing sleep disturbance. These include reduced night time sleep, night time wandering, and excessive daytime napping. Sleep problems can disrupt the sleep of other members of the family. However, there are currently no treatments that consistently improve sleep problems for people living with dementia.

This is where the DREAMS START sleep treatment programme comes in. This study tests out the programme on people with dementia living at home and their family caregivers, to see if it is feasible and acceptable.

We caught up with Chief Investigator Gill Livingston to find out more:

What are the main aims of the study?

We have developed a new individualised treatment programme which aims to improve sleep problems. The current study is what is known as a feasibility trial. We want to see how practicable and acceptable our treatment programme is. We also want to gather initial information to indicate if our treatment programme helps people with dementia and their carers. If so, we intend to test our programme in a bigger trial.

What does it involve for a participant?

Prof. Gill Livingston, Chief Investigator on this study

Prof. Gill Livingston, Chief Investigator on this study

We will come and see the person with dementia and a carer (usually a family member) at home and ask about their sleep and other symptoms. We will then ask participants living with dementia to wear a special watch (an ‘acti-watch’) that measures sleep and light exposure for two weeks. We will ask them to wear it again three months later to see if anything has changed.

Everyone in the study will be randomly assigned by a computer to either receive the treatment programme (two thirds of people in the study), or to receive their usual treatment (one third). We want to talk to those in the treatment arm afterwards to ask for their feedback, which will help us further develop the intervention.

Those people who have the treatment will have a member of the team who will visit them six times at home (each around an hour). The visits are about how to help someone with dementia sleep well at night and consider sleep pattern, comfort, activity light and relaxation. We will look at information from the acti-watch and provide special lamps, which can be used to increase light. We will ask the carer (and the person with dementia if they are able) to try out different strategies that may help the person with dementia sleep better.

Participants in the usual treatment group will receive the information from the acti-watch and sleep advice after the follow up visit at three months.

How long is the study for?

The number of visits for each participant depends on the group they are in, but for all participants involvement in the study will last approximately three and a half months.

What do you hope the outcomes of the study will be?

We hope that our treatment programme will help people with dementia and their carers to sleep better. The information we get from this study might help improve things for people with dementia in the future and help carers whose sleep is affected when the person they look after is up at night.

Where is the study based?

The study is based at University College London and participants will need to be within a 5 mile radius of this site.

Who can take part?

We are looking for people with a diagnosis of dementia (any type and severity) who are also having problems with their sleep. People need to be living at home and have a carer also willing to take part in the study, though this carer does not need to live with them.

You can see if you are eligible for this study, as well as others around the nation, by logging into your Join Dementia Research account.

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