Pillows and sheet in bed - sleeping with dementia

Is it typical for people with dementia to sleep a lot during the day?

People with dementia, especially those in the later stages, can often spend a lot of time sleeping. This can sometimes be worrying for carers, friends and family. Find out why a person with dementia might sleep more than an average person of their age.

It is quite common for a person with dementia, especially in the later stages, to spend a lot of their time sleeping – both during the day and night. This can sometimes be distressing for the person’s family and friends, as they may worry that something is wrong. 

Sleeping more and more is a common feature of later-stage dementia. As the disease progresses, the damage to a person’s brain becomes more extensive and they gradually become weaker and frailer over time.

As a result, a person with dementia may find it quite exhausting to do relatively simple tasks like communicating, eating or trying to understand what is going on around them. This can make the person sleep more during the day as their symptoms become more severe. 

Some medications may contribute to sleepiness. These include some antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines and of course sleeping pills.

Sleeping disorders unrelated to dementia, such as having breathing that occasionally stops during sleep (known as ‘apnoea’), can also contribute to sleeping for longer. 

What should I do if a person with dementia is sleeping a lot? 

If the person is in the later stages of dementia and they have gradually started sleeping more and more, it is likely to be due to the dementia progressing.  

However, if the excessive sleeping has started more suddenly, or the person doesn’t seem well in other ways, it may have another cause.  

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Discussions about Sleep in our online community, Talking Point...
Discussions about Sleep...

If this is the case you should speak to the GP, to rule out any infections or conditions that could be having an impact.

It may also be worth asking for a medication review with the GP or speaking to a pharmacist as medication can cause a range of side effects. 

If the person is sleeping a lot but it isn’t having a negative impact on them it is often best to just go with it and make sure they are comfortable. 

Why does dementia affect sleep? 

Problems with sleep are very common for people with dementia. They can include: 

  • sleeping during the day and being awake and restless during the night 
  • becoming disorientated in the dark if they wake up to use the toilet 
  • waking up more often and staying awake longer during the night 
  • getting up in the early hours and thinking it’s day time or time to go to work (disorientation in time) 
  • not being able to tell the difference between night and day. 

Nobody completely understands why dementia affects sleeping patterns. For some people, it may be that their internal ‘biological clock’, which judges what time it is, becomes damaged so the person starts to feel sleepy at the wrong time of day.

There are also other parts of the brain which control whether or not we stay awake, and these may also not work properly if they become damaged.  

Sometimes a person with dementia might completely reverse their normal sleep pattern, staying up all night and then sleeping all day. 

Sleep and dementia

It's common for people with dementia, especially in the later stages, to spend a lot of their time sleeping

Does quality of sleep matter for people with dementia? 

The quality of a person's sleep gradually deteriorates as they get older. They tend to get less deep or ‘slow-wave’ sleep, which helps to keep the brain healthy and refreshed. 

Even though a person with dementia may end up sleeping more than a typical person of their age – even as much as 14–15 hours a day – it is unlikely to all be good quality sleep. 

Sleeping a lot can also be influenced by people’s sleeping patterns before they had dementia, as some people need more sleep than others. 

Sleep for people who have dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease 

The type of dementia you have can affect your sleep.

People who have dementia caused by Lewy body disease, such as Parkinsons’ disease (PD) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are often sleepy by day but have very restless and disturbed nights. They can suffer from confusion, nightmares and hallucinations. Insomnia, sleep apnoea (breathing difficulties) and restless legs are common symptoms. 

A person affected with these types of dementia may often unknowingly ‘act’ out their dreams by shouting and moving around in bed.

They can even cause injury to themselves and/or their sleeping partner. This is called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder or RBD, and tends to happen from the earliest stages of the disease onwards.

This can be exhausting and often leaves the person feeling like they haven’t slept at all, so they are very tired and sleepy during the day.

It can be hard to stay awake during the day after a poor night’s sleep but, if possible, it’s best to try to limit sleep during the day to small bursts or ‘catnaps’. Otherwise the person’s body clock can become very confused and this makes sleeping well during the night even harder.

Read more about sleep and dementia

Find out whether poor sleep is a risk factor for dementia, and what you can do to encourage better sleep.

Sleep and dementia
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this is typical of my husband sleeps at least 20hrs out of 24hrs simple tasks really exhaust him, bed bath , eating , bed changing etc now after seeing this blog i do not feel as though I am neglecting him by letting him sleep, I now feel reassured it is the "norm" at this stage of his Alzheimer's journey

Aweeeeee It’s helping us to read all this.

Thank you for sharing Susan! I too am feeling guilty. My client has started to sleep a lot lot more than when I first started as his caregiver. I’ve tried lots of things to prompt him. I just have to accept the fact that it is what it is and not feel guilty about it.

I have a question. Is it common for dementia patients to disoray there home by messing up everything at nite

Hi Annette,
Thanks for getting in touch - and sorry to hear you've been having problems with mess and sleep disturbance.
Sleep disturbances are common for people living with dementia. We have some information on our website that may help the person to sleep better at night: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/sle…
In terms of the mess, there could be a number of different factors - perhaps the person feels confused or anxious. We have a page on anxiety here which may be useful:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/anx…
We also have a page with tips on making your home dementia friendly, which may help to keep the person calm: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/10-ways-make-your-home-dementia-frie…
If you're still having issues or would like to talk to a Dementia Adviser, I'd recommend calling our dementia helpine. They'll be able to learn a bit more about your situation and provide relevant information, advice and support. You can find contact details here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

I hope this is helpful,
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

This helps me so much. My husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago and he has slept all day. He is a veteran and hard to get ahold of the va.

My dad has mixed dementia and stroke and small vessel disease from alcoholism (he doesn’t drink or smoke now) he is awake around 7am till 10.30am and then 6pm till 9pm we wake him to give him drinks and get him changed but I feel bad always waking him up, but struggle to get him to drink enough to not be dehydrated in such a short space of time, any ideas? Which is worse? 😳

Susan,
My husband as well. At first it really depressed me. I thought he might be dying but that was 2 years ago. Now I allow him to do what ever makes him most comfortable. It's helpful that I'm not alone, just lonely. Connie

Your article confirmed alot. The lady i help care for has dementia, and has started sleeping longer in the morning and taking long "cat naps" in the afternoon. She wakes up rested and happy, so (based on your article) we will let her continue this. Only downside that has been going on for a long time now is her wakefulness at night. And she seems disoriented when she wakes up!!

Thank you for your article it has helped so much. My Mum is in a nursing home and her sleeping is becoming a problem for them. I have been called in for a meeting because she has trouble sleeping at night and wondering,. My Mum seems to be spending a lot of time through the day sleeping and not when the nursing home thinks she should be . She informed me this week that the person looking after her wing at night was so sick of her because she was awake and went for a walk. To me the nursing home have no idea about Dementia, or the care that is needed, very happy to take $320.000, a lot more than her pension plus the money from the government.

Gay find another nursing home immediatel. They are obviously unaware of how to "treat" or "handle" a patient with dementia. I would be worried about what they would be doing "to handle" your Mum. My Mum had it and now my husband has it, no one who ever minded them EVER said they were "so sick" of my loved one. Get her out as soon as possible!!

Agree! Get her out of there!!!

Yes this happened with my Dad. They where going to send him to nut house. I said no way and brought him to my house.

I run a complex dementia unit and our staff have no problems with residents being up at night , on interview we always say nights are as busy as the days with residents up and walking, we always have food available in case they are hungry, as you said they clearly do not have a good understanding of dementia, very sad for you to be told they are sick of her I think it is disgusting!

Do you have enough staff at night? where my husband is there are 2 night staff for about 75 people, and i do suspect they drug them all bevause everyone is in bed by 6.30

Look for a nursing home that has a memory or dementia area. Apparently, that nursing home isn't experience in that area

My mum sleeps most of the day now we visit and she tells us to go as she needs to sleep but she is comfortable and safe

Why don't doctor's understand this. This was a problem every time my husband was hospitalized, despite me constantly explaining it's a normal behaviour for people with this disease. They would reportedly withdraw all meds with no affect except adding withdrawal symptoms as well. Please educate regional doctors and GPS in this behaviour.
Carolyn Dunn

This article is just the confirmation I needed. My husband is sleeping for at least 15hrs if not more. This article has answered some of the questions that I've had going round and round in my head. I feel more content now to let him sleep, he's quite good for the few hours he's awake but quite disorientated if he does get up early.

My husband has been waking up in the morning late, then going in the living room and sleeps 90 % of the day in his chair. He has vascular dementia and the doctor told me this is normal for him. I know we are progressing, but I am blessed he still knows us. Him sleeping gives me peace that he is not suffering. Thank you for confirming his sleeping almost 20 hours a day as normal.

Oh, what a relief, to read these postings regarding how much a person with dementia sleeps. My husband who has vascular dementia spends most of the day sleeping. When I told his GP, he had him have blood work done. It was normal.
Then I took him to the Psychiatrist to see if his meds were making him so sleepy. He checked his blood levels of the ones that would make a person so sleepy, they were ok. However ,we are now weaning him off his antidepressant to see if that helps. So far , no change. I too, was ridden with guilt about letting him sleep so much. I wanted to get him up & moving. The old “move it or loose it”. So if this sleeping so much is later stage dementia, what’s next ? Will he soon become incontinent ,not be able to feed himself or walk ?
I know everyone’s disease state is different but does anybody know what is the average length of later stage dementia , a year or less ? How soon will he need Nursing Home or Hospice care ? I am taking care of him myself and don’t want to put him someplace because he still knows me, & relies on me.

Thanks for shedding more light on this. My mum's sleeping pattern has changed and I was getting worried. I'm now reassured that we're not doing anything wrong. Thankyou very much

My Mum was in a care home and not getting the correct care even basic hygiene was being left daily. she was sleeping for 4 days in a chair no one told me? I demanded the doctor was called and he came when I wasn't there told the nurses he'd come back in a few days see how she is?? he knew she was poorly and did nothing about it. I moved mum to a private home after she came out of hospital with a bad urine infection, she loved her room and slept in her bed all night . something she never did in the last home. Sadly within 2 weeks she started sleeping again and barely woke when I visited everyday. the home called the doctor, another infection but her body was closing down and she got sepsis and passed away within 24hrs with me by her side. she wasn't in pain but it seems the care homes don't take immediate action when it comes to infections. I miss her so much at least she is in a better place for her and can sleep peacefully now bless her.

Dear Christine
I am so sorry for the loss of your Mum - I can tell she meant so much to you. My Mum had dementia and passed away after contracting C diff in hospital. Your Mum will have remembered how much you cared for her and have been grateful to you for the happiness the new home gave her. I found comfort in thinking about Mum everyday - about all the amazing and beautiful aspects of her life and character. Keep hold of all that's good and spread the understanding you gained from looking after your lovely Mum. Love from Sue x

Thank you so much for this article. My husband has Parkinson’s. You have let me know, it’s the disease not the care I’m giving him. He sleeps 15-20 hours in a 24 hour period. He’s always so tired and weak. I’ve just been trying everything to get him to stay awake and be active. I will now allow him to do what he can when he can and let him sleep when he needs it.

My mother in law lives with us. She sleeps about 23 hours a day. Never speaks. Has a very hard time eating but hasn’t been like this for a year. I read that this can go on for 5-10 more years! Crazy but so thankful we have more time than I expected!

My 91 year old mother has stage 4 Alzheimer's, lives on her own and spends her days readind newspapers and wandering aimlessly round her bungalow. If she is found sleeping by my sister-who visits her daily-mother is horrified and in denial. She thinks that sleeping is done only at night and never at any other time. She is extremely, ridiculously stubborn and difficult to communicate with. Sleeping during the day, to her, is embarrassing and shameful.

I have had Alzheimer's for more than 3 years, and I. certainly need more sleep, but not only at night. Even half an hour helps a lot before a meeting, serious shopping or whatever.

These comments have helped me tremendously in my care for my 92 year old husband. He sleeps most of the time now but even when he is awake he prefers to stay in bed because he is more comfortable. Nursing homes seem to get their patients up, dress and clean them, give them breakfast and then they are propped up at a table and consequently sleep with their head down on the table. That cannot be comfortable for them and your contributors have cheered me up so that I do not feel that my care is incorrect now, for my husband. He is comfortable and happy too, when he is awake, and I feel better about it all now. Many thanks everybody.

My dad is 85 & diagnosed with vascular dementia. Hes also got bowel cancer. I can't believe how FAST his memory has gone but... how can I prevent him from being SO NASTY to my mum who's 84 & suffers badly from diabetes. PLEASE HELP

Hi Lorraine,

Sorry to hear about your dad - that sounds really difficult.

Have you tried calling or contacting our helpline? They'll be able to offer you some advice and support regarding changes in your dad's behaviour. Please find their number, contact details and opening hours here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is helpful, and please do get in touch if you need any further support.
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

That was what my MIL was like before she was given a medication named memantine, she used to really nasty to her husband and care giver, but since the medication she is happy as a lark, is easy to be taken care of, eats, sleeps, and chatter most day.

Very helpful discussions. Thank you the sleeping thing has been such a concern. Would like to know what happens next

Hi Olivette,
Thanks for your comment - I'm glad you've found the discussions helpful.
We do have some pages on our website about how dementia progresses, you can find them here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how…
It's important to remember that everyone experiences dementia differently, so this is just an indicator of some typical experiences.
If you'd ever like to talk to somebody about your situation, please remember you can call our helpline 7 days a week. Details and opening hours for the helpline are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
Hope this is helpful,
--
Alzheimer's Society blog team

This was very helpful as my husband can easily sleep 14 hours or more a d I was worried that he was misdiagnosed g out om food and drinks

My husband has Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 57 years.
We have flown to the states for him to receive Stem Cell treatment which he had yesterday, so it’s fingers crossed now for a positive result.
BTW he sleeps a lot too

Where in the States are you. Is there a website as I have early onset Altzeimers & would like some info.

Have you had good results with this?

Hi my husband is 65 and in his second year of Alzheimer’s. I am very interested to know how your husband is after the stem cell treatment?

Can you give more info regarding stem cell

My dad tends to fall asleep in the morning and several times during the day. I think it has got more frequent over the last few months. He has had Vascular Dementia for 10 years. My mum who is his main carer has become a little worried about this as she says he drops off in the chair constantly. He is 87 now so we sometimes think it could be age related too. He does sleep well at night though and gets up once to use the toilet. It is concerning but he seems ok.

Thankyou for putting my mind st rest regarding my husband s sleeping for long periods I now feel I am doing right letting him sleep

Thank you! This article was really reassuring.

My mum, 88 has dementia but under control with medication. She gets up as early as 4.00am to have her bath and get dressed. Then sits in her bedroom before coming down to make a cup of tea at 7.00. She then nods off on and off all morning. I put a film on in the afternoons and she seems to stay awake then.

My husband has started sleeping a lot during the day, he also sleeps allnight so I was relieved to read your article. Many thanks for this information I am sure many people will be glad to know a bout this issue.

My difficulty is loneliness. My hosband has slept all day and I have spoken to no one. If I was single the way I would deal with this is I would go out for a walk or visit a garden centre but I can't leave him.

My Mum is in the same situation. My Dad sleeps nearly all day and all night. She has given up her social life as she cannot (and will not) leave him alone and will not get carers. It is a very hard situation to be in.

My mom does that too. I have seen my mom get up at 1 am make her bed and get dressed. Go back to sleep till I get up then breakfast then she falls asleep in front of tv then I tell her go to bed. Then I make lunch she has big appetite, eats falls asleep again. I go to work get home at 12 am put her drops in she sleeps all night. She is 91 good health but I think beginning stages of dementia she has been evaluated. We live together. I will not put her in a home . Not until she does not know any of us. I can’t do it. Her eyes aren’t good she still takes her walker goes to bingo. Just make her comfortable and some what happy. I do feel like part of my mom is gone. I don’t see a lot of genuine happy like I use to. But she is still here. So we cherish that.

My mom had a temporal bleed. The care home give her Mirtazapine at approx 5.15.p.m. with her tea. Shes often asleep by 6.45 They then say shes up at night. Who wouldn't be as shes had 8 hrs sleep by early hrs. Then asleep in morning so misses breakfast and her epilepsy pills and glaucoma drops. Purely because of incorrect drug administration by care home. I've spoken to social and doctors but nothing happens. Care homes are untouchable. Especially if your loved one has a DOLs.

my wife has just died after 11 yrs of a hell of a journey with Alzheimers
she went through all the stages of this decease one was the sleeping
for days in chairs on sofas on beds , to me it was,nt normal this happened in 2 car homes. My wife was very active walking about all the time with one to one carers. Carers were asking me whats wrong with her? l had to think how was l going to speak to the nurses and managers about this. l know what response l was going to get from them the normal thing they say is that its a stage of the Alzheimers
l had to decide was she over medicated to slow her down was she bored with nothing to do, sometimes the carers never spoke to her.
its not easy to speak to doctors and managers in these care homes but l did,nt give up and the medication was the problem.

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