The Sleep Kit: A Caring Approach to Sleep

Author(s) & Credentials: Eve Baird, BA; Janet Durkee-Lloyd, PhD; Justine Henry, BSc., Msc.

Affiliated Institution(s): Centre for Innovation and Research in Aging (CIRA) 

Acknowledgements: The Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF) provided funding for this research project that was administered at York Care Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. 

What inspired you to begin researching this area? Describe the main issue or challenge you intend to address with this project.

Sleep disturbances are a huge barrier among people who are living with dementia and their care-partners. The current research suggests to exercise, eat healthy, or use medications to improve sleep quality. Medications are helpful for some people but they are not the solution for everyone. Specifically for people who are living with dementia, medications have the potential to exacerbate the symptoms that the individual is experiencing. A study by Richards et al. (2005) looked at how individualized social activity could have an effect on sleep. As an Activity Coordinator, this interested me and I wanted to see how one-on-one social activity before bedtime and providing someone with meaningful engagement would affect their sleep quality. The idea of The Sleep Kit is to get someone ready for sleeping by having them relaxed – as opposed to just going to bed, turning off the light, and expecting that person to immediately go to sleep. 

Briefly summarize your research project.

We wanted to have samples both from the community setting (people who are living at home – 16 participants) and the long-term care setting (people living at York Care Centre – 25 participants). Participants who are living with dementia wore a Fitbit Alta HR to track their sleep and they were paired up with someone who administered The Sleep Kit activities with them for 30-60 minutes, for 10 evenings over a 14-day period. The Sleep Kit contains: a hairbrush, hand mirror, deck of playing cards, chamomile tea, herbal pillow, lotion, essential oil, book, CD and coloring book and markers. The participants could choose which items to use based on which items worked well. The care partners wrote about their experience in a sleep diary. In the long-term care setting, The Sleep Kit intervention decreased the number of restless bouts for the majority of participants by an average of 3 times per night. 

Discuss some of the past, present, and/ or intended future real-world applications of this research.

Now that The Sleep Kit has been researched, we plan on bringing it to market so that it can be available for purchase by both informal and formal caregivers. The Sleep Kit is a tool that can be used at home or in long-term care homes, to improve the quality of life for individuals who are affected by dementia. Across Canada, we are experiencing a shift from a medical-model approach to care, to one that is more person-centred. This changing care climate supports The Sleep Kit’s implementation. It’s a catalyst for changing the culture and experience of care-partnership, easing the emotional and physical strain that often comes with this role by offering natural, social ways to promote better sleep habits.     

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