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.

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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...

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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Such a cruel disease. It’s a thief and robs us everything. I wish I could relate and be as caring as so many others but it’s just exhausting. My wife is 67, clueless about most everything. She’s always delusional, talking to pictures , the tv s and people in her imagination. Our meals are now in silence as there is no sense in trying to communicate. She wanders around the house all day just moving things around. She needs to be watched constantly as she’ll run bathtubs to overflow and will not be aware and doesn’t care. While she still recognizes her immediate family, she only recognizes some neighbors. I take her to a senior center a few days a week mostly for a break for me even though she is not aware we’re headed there. While many tell me I should be thankful that she doesn’t display anger and is quite content most of the time, I must admit that this is bringing less and less consolation as being totally honest, I’ve already lost her and feel no joy in still having her around. It’s been progressing for about 5 years and have planned my way into poverty and Medicaid support in the next year or so when I’ll have spent all that I had saved now that I am forced to retire to care for her. Family is scattered around the country and her friends and family have pretty much disappeared. As I started this, I will end... this is a cruel disease, a thief and robs us of everything.
I am only posting this as a need to vent.

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Frank, I feel everything you mentioned in your comment and thank you for being brave enough to express it so eloquently . My poor husband is bed bound now because,as well as Alzheimer’s, he also has a condition called corticobasal degeneration which is another cruel neurological disease. Some days my resentment is overwhelming and, just like you, I feel sometimes that my life is being sacrificed for his. This may sound selfish and harsh to some but believe me living with someone with dementia certainly takes it’s toll on the Carer. Your emotions are constantly being twisted one way or the other as your love for your wonderful husband or wife, the person you planned a lovely retirement with, get stripped slowly before you eyes. I’m convinced Dementia takes at least 2 lives each time it’s diagnosed.
You rant away Frank. It does you good to get it off your chest. I actually bought myself a punchbag so I can metaphorically punch dementia in the face and vent my anger for taking my husband away from me. Keep strong.

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I’m sorry and sad for you. I missed my Mother so badly. She was taken away a little at a time. Now it is my Mother in Law. To see her change so dramatically is heartbreaking. I really feel for you since I’m sure it is so much harder with a spouse. God Bless You. Joy

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Good morning Frank

Just read your sad entry as you say it's a cruel curse, I work with dementia, but have just given it up to look after my Auntie in Scotland. My cousin's can't do it they're too emotional, whereas with my training and experience I can cope, in the 2 weeks I've been here she's thrived, and doing well. My advice is try and find a professional to come in and give you a break you'll need it im sure! And talking helps, fortunately my Aunt has super neighbours and friends from church, her sleeping is great and she knows it's me so no confusion, we talk constantly and I explain everything, please feel free to talk anytime 🤗

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Can someone help me please? My grandma has been hospitalized with dementia, but it has gotten so bad over the past few weeks. A month ago we were having normal conversations and now she’s talking to people that aren’t there, roaming around all night and tries to leave the house. I don’t know what to do as the medical system has provided no help or answers. She just got sent back tonight and all tests have come back normal/no infections. She also gets angry very quickly and can start crying for no reason. Please any advice would be appreciated. It’s like she’s a totally different person.

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Hello Tyler,

Thanks for getting in touch. We are sorry to hear about your grandma's situation. This must be a really worrying time for you and your family.

We would really recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. Our dementia advisers can listen to the situation about your grandma's symptoms and condition, and provide information and advice on the next steps. The support line is available seven days a week: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this is helpful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My mom will be 99 this year and she has vascular dementia. She can wake Monday thru Friday but she naps long period of times. She seems to sleep almost continuously through the week end. If she has a Dr appointment or we go visit my daughter she can get up. This is not often due to Covid. When she sees her GP all her test are good.

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I’m very thankful to find this blog. My husband is recovering from covid. He is 85 and was in the hospital Jan. 19- Jan 22.
He has been sick since Jan. 1. He has had other health problems in the past, but seems to have dementia the last few weeks . Sleeps all day and night. This blog has helped me so much to understand the facets of dementia. This happened so quickly. And I am a senior caregiver so now I am his.
Thank you for all the comments. Comforting to know that so many of us are in the same boat.
Linda

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My husband is 76 years old. He is suffering from dementia and is sleeping a tremendous amount. He has been drinking a lot more , bounding from one wall to another one.

Is he in the final 1-3 months of his life?

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Hello Leslie, thanks for getting in touch.

We'd recommend speaking with your GP about your husband and the progression of his dementia. They will be able to provide information and advice specific to his condition.

In the meantime, if you're in need of emotional support, please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. Our dementia advisers are here for you when you need them: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this is helpful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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my Uncle has dementia. He sleeps 22 hours out of a day. He's ambulatory but does little to participate in life. My Aunt does all chores herself. He will watch her bring in all groceries. She'll tell him to watch her come in just in case she falls. He wouldn't know to call 911 if that did happen. He eats fine. Sneaks foods when her back is turned. If she hides it, he finds it. He has made the toilet super dirty. Usually 3 times before lunch. He ignores anyone who approaches him to bathe. It takes alot of persuading to get him in the shower. All of this leads to poor life quality for my Aunt. She gets so depressed. Very lonely. I am convinced he doesn't have to sleep this much because when his daughters come home he finds all this extra energy he didn't have. He talks, and is so alert! Now if sleeping is all part of this condition, how can he control his cognitive ability when family arrives??

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I could be your aunt! My husband was formerly very helpful, equal division of household chores. Now he will step over a dead bug rather than lick it up, and misses a lot when he does a chore. When family or friends are present, he perks up, but is usually exhausted when they leave. With the blessing of our neurologist and GP, I just let him sleep. It is a common sign of the later stages of dementia. And frankly, it is easier for me for him to be asleep while I go about my daily tasks. I have some extra help a few days a week which allows me to get out. You might try having a relative visit with him while another takes your aunt out for a visit, a walk, whatever is feasible. If I couldn’t get out a couple times a week, I would be distressed, and my depression would be worse. I am a very healthy 69 year-old, my husband and is 78. We are coming to the point (especially with more people getting vaccinated) that I will rely more on my friends and family to visit with him so I can get out.

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Thank you for sharing. My husband is 83 with Alzheimer’s. He sleeps at least 18 hours a day. Before his diagnosis and progression he helped with everything and was very active. It is lonely and challenging with showering. As I am reading it tells me the disease is in late stage. He has lost weight and frail.

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I had to move back to California to look after my mother she now don't know me and she is sleeping a lot up for awhile during the night but not long she sometimes has problems in the restroom sometimes she my eat are she will play with her food and now she is just falling down every once in awhile when she tries to walk which she still can but do to much she will say she is going to fall I just don't understand what stage she is in she just turned 79 she kept it a secret that she had a problem her doctor made her being me with her looking back on things with her she had it when she was 71 it was very mild someone please help me understand where she is on stages

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Greetings from Massachusetts, USA—
I stumbled on this blog and read many of the recent posts. My (Scottish) grandmother had Alzheimer’s and slept most of her last 10 years of life til age 96. Sadly, I felt it was far too long because she was miserable when she was awake, and quality of life was terrible for her. (I lived next door to her) Her last few years were in a nursing home which was awful. That was 14 years ago. —My current reason for doing an online research of “Alzheimer’s & sleeping” is because just before the Covid lockdown, I brought my aunt (86) to live w/me for a few months. It was time for her to leave a costly assisted living facility she’d been in for 6 years. She needed far more help anyway. Due to the pandemic she’s still with me. She sleeps ALOT & has for years now. Many of your comments resonate. I don’t know if I’m running a nursing home or a hospice! She stays in bed mainly (an adjustable bed), has little to no interest in TV, and rarely talks. She doesn’t strike up conversation and it’s exhausting for me to try to maintain a conversation. She walks downstairs to eat meals in the dining room at times but eats very little and is never hungry. At this point her main diet is Ensure protein drinks which her doctor recommended and told me she can survive on that alone. She is very much like her mother was, but it started at an earlier age. Today for example, she’s been sleeping since 2 nights ago, but does toilet on her own, and has drank a few bottles of Ensure both days. I can’t imagine going on like this for even another year. But I realize it’s possible. I feel like I’m still waiting for my real life to begin. Best wishes to all of you.

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I read your story .It sounds so familiar.The only thing is l put on diaper and Momma
Also has a colon ostomy bag l also change. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
She means everything .some days are better then others. Hang in there God Bless stay safe &Healthy Tom whalen👍🦅

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Robyn, I also live in MA in the western part. My 91 yr old mother is in an Assisted Living but has absolutely no interest in anything..reading. TV music..but always says she is bored. I visit her 2 x week as she cannot yet leave due to Covid and wrack my brain for things to talk about. It is a grace for you and for me to do this for them. Thst is what gets me through.

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You will be blessed because of your loving kindness. ❤

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Ensure has lots of sugar in it. I’d try to get her on a healthy diet of real food - meat, veggies, fruits, and some quality vitamins. Have her blood test done, she may be anemic/b12 deficiency. Etc. Ensure is supposed to be a supplement not a substitute for food. If she has dysphasia, you can put her on puréed food diet. Try keeping her awake if possible. Engage/find activities she may like other than tv. Try different things.

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Hi Barbara, your comment I am sure is the best thing to do your that person but to keep up with all of what you suggest and take care of yourself, Family work is very stressful. Not many of us have the $$$ to hire a nurse and sending my Mother to a nursing home is not an option. Just trying everyday to get her to do simple tasks is emotionally exhausting. Most care givers as you know burn out and have no back-up.

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I don't know what to say besides BLESS YOU!

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I am so glad to hear someone else admit they are waiting for their life to begin. I have often said to my husband that I feel guilty planning our retirement because it means our parents have passed. We have my 84 year old dad with alzheimers and 84 year old mom in law with Parkinsons and cancer. Both are living with us. I quit my job to stay home with them. We had been planning our retirement for years and now we are in our sixties and our plans are on hold for however long it is. I've had people say that I am blessed to have this time with my dad,but honestly I feel resentful and then guilty because I feel that way. He is MISERABLE constantly and so am I.

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Several years ago a therapist advised me to do as little as possible for my elder relatives (mother & aunt) because they have already lived their full life and parents should not be a burden to their children. He reminded me that I should be living my life. Aunt's primary doctor who she's had for decades, also told me the same--do only what makes sense!

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My husband was sent to hospital by his memory care facility due high temp and heart rate. He is not ambulatory due to botched hip replacement. and is incontinent. Hospital is treating him for a UTI. Based on past experience his “memory care” facility cannot properly care for him following discharge from hospital. I want to bring him home. He responds to me. My issue is how to handle bathing, incontinence issues, etc. at home. He has the funds to hire help, but where do I find competent caregivers.

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Look up 'In Home Healthcare' agencies in your area. Then do interviews with them or get recommendations from family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Some agencies have aids that will bathe or Occupational Therapists that will teach you how to bathe them and/or help them and you will daily needed tasks. They gave us great suggestions...we bought a toilet handle that attaches to the back of the toilet and has handles on both sides, a heater for the bathroom to help keep it warm while bathing, a walker, a cane, etc. All have nurses that can come once or twice a week and some physical therapists as well (to teach exercises to gain back strength if possible.) Buy some Depends for him to wear for incontinence, as well as mattress covers that are washable. Buy 2, second to put on while other is in the wash.

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We currently have two different in home senior care agencies assisting me take care of my wife who has dementia. The competency of your caregiver agency will depend upon where you live and availability of caregivers may be limited due to COVID. You need to be diligent in the selection process to make sure you understand their rules and billing practices. Even so, it may take several caregiver interviews and trial periods to find the right personality fit. Once you find the right caregiver , it will help relieve some of the pressure on you. You will need to have some personal time off for as helpful as an agency can be the main caregiver responsibility will fall on you.

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The hospital should have a caseworker /social worker assigned to your husband and can set up to have a home health agency come to your home and provide assistance. As previously mentioned , they have many services available. Make sure you tell the hospital staff you want this. Also, word of mouth is how I found 3 lovely ladies to help me with my mother, who is 83 and has vascular dementia. Don’t hesitate to ask friends and family If they know of anyone that does private duty sitting. You never know if you don’t ask. Good luck.

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I have been looking after my husband since he suffered two massive brain haemorrhages 32 years ago aged 48 . The last 5 years he has had Alzheimer's and its 24/7 care. He has to have everything done for him ,can't stand or walk alone due to the damage to his brain he's sleeps most of the time and no conversation at all.

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Hi all , my nan is 82 and has had Covid has come out of her isolation period now she’s not slept for 3 nights and just can’t not settle she’s hallucinating , she’s on sleeping tablets but don’t seem to be working ! No one will come out to her due to ‘Covid’ , does anyone know of any techniques of how to try and relax someone with dementia

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Music, singing, reading, rubbing hand, talking about good memories.

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Hello if you ask her doctor for Rivitrol drops and/ or tablet form it often help calm down people with dementia

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HI Amy
We have similar issues with my father in law which is 94 with Congested Heart Failure some dimentia and very aggressive . The toughest challenge is he can no longer live alone we watch him on weekends and hired Monday Thru Friday help it’s expensive but we are sacrificing a lot to keep him from going to a senior facility his challenge is he don’t sleep at night . Huge problem for caretaker . After failed prescribed sleeping pills , we hear that putting peeled garlic clove under his pillow nightly he would sleep some and or calm down . It’s been a week and most nights it’s huge improvement . Last night was a little setback he was hallucinating that someone was in his room but caretaker managed to assure him no one was hiding in his closet and went back sleep . Try the garlic clove it’s cheaper than meds and may work for you !

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Hi Amy, I'm so sorry you are going through this. My mom is 90 in late stage dementia and started hallucinating and sleeping a lot and has lost interest in everything. Her doctor put her on an anti-psychotic med which seems to have reduced the hallucinations a bit, and do make her groggy. We switched her from a regular GP to a doctor who specializes in elder care and a office staff who also understand the needs of elders with dementia - they are a good source. Music does seem to calm her a bit - we will put youtube on the Andrea Boccelli station and she likes that. Good luck!!

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Be careful of sleeping tablets as the elderly it’s not supposed to use most sleep aids. I think they could backfire on them. My 90 yr old mother can be up for a full 36 hours and then sleep for an entire day. she is bedridden so at least I don’t have to worry about her wandering.

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My husband76 also has dimentia and he went thru that staying up 3 days and nights. I remembered after a while that his GP had given him a steroid injection, once it was out of his system he calmed down and started sleeping much better. It totally
takes a toll on both the patient and caregiver.

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My mother has dementia and alzheimer's she stays in her bed most if the time, she has a bad back ,probably because she will not sit in the front room as she says it's cold in there ,it is no colder in there then the bedroom
So she has no back support due to lying down all the time
Such a worry

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My mom is 78 yrs old. She sleeps all day but having tubs feeding. The doctor have started her on awake tablet but waiting for the result.It is sad to sleep her sleeping.

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I need hug 😭

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My 88 yo mom has dementia and like many of your loved ones is sleeping between 17 to 20 hours a day. She tires so quickly and it’s gotten to the point that she rarely eats more than 1 meal a day. God bless all of you and I wish you and your families much comfort.

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Hi Terrey. my mom is same do I understand your situation. She sleeps all the time. She doesnt even answer the phone anymore. Her two other children live 2000 miles away. My sister believes that there is absolutely nothing wrong with mom and that i am just not Caring for her properly. (my sister has visited mom twice in the past 20 -25 years). Awaiting assisted living place with nuns. Waiting list is long. Mom has lost weight and is very weak. She is confused and just wants to sleep.

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My dad has just slept for 48 hours is this normal only eating once a day and that's a struggle to get him to do that hes 86 and has dementia for 8 years

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I understand your concern. Over the Christmas season my mother who also has dementia slept twice for for about 35 hours waking up two days after she went to bed much earlier in the morning than she normally does. Her neurologist thinks she may have depression because her husband died a month ago. The neurologist is evaluating whether an antidepressant might help. He previously had her using a regimen of neurological drugs in early stages of dementia which he took her off about two years ago when they no longer appeared to be helping. The excessive sleeping leading up to the full day sleeping episodes is new in her case following her husband’s funeral.

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My Nan 97 dementia has also just slept for 42 hours over Boxing Day And the 27th.It’s apparently late stages but they do advise to try keep them awake and to sleep at normal times annemarie.Good luck

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