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 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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230 comments

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My Mom has dementia & she always talking about going to her Mom house & her Mom is deceased & always asking where my dad is, he is also deceased, up late at night walking, fuss about eating sometimes, dont want to leave the house, a lot of sleeping during the daytime. My husband & I are her caregivers, but sometimes I get very frustrated. What stage could she be be in. She always forgetten

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Hello Margaret,
We're sorry to hear this - it sounds like a really difficult time for you and your husband.
If you are based in the UK, we recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers to discuss the situation. They will be best placed to provide you with advice and support. Please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. (More information on opening times: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line)
If you're based in the US, please contact the Alzheimer's Association helpline: https://alz.org/help-support/resources/helpline Or if you're based in Canada, please contact the Alzheimer's Society of Canada helpline: https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/ContactUs
In the meantime, you may find our article on what to say to a person with dementia who asks to go home: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/i-want-go-home-what-to-say-to-someon…
Wishing you all the best, Margaret.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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This information has been very useful for me. Reading other people’s comments are distressing because my husband is nowhere near as bad. But I worry about the future and haw I am coping and how I will cope in the future. I am just taking each day as it comes.

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My dad had went from walking with walker onhis ownto not walking hardly at all on the last 5 weeks. This last week up 2 nights sleeps 1. Them up 3 nights tilno sleep till 4 and has only woke up to pee 5 times today and it is now 11:44 pm. Refuses to eat just drinks water. Iwhat stage is this and will began to sleep normally again

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Hi Teresa,

Thanks for your comment. Really sorry to hear that you and your dad have been having a difficult time.

One of our trained dementia advisers can give support you with this - please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You can talk to them so we can find out a bit more about your situation and provide ideas, information and advice. More details of the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is helpful, Teresa.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My patient is 87 and sleeps 20 to 22 hours a day I try and get her up but she refuses and she’s hardly eating now! It’s very disheartening for me! It’s happened so fast

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My mum is like this now she's 89
Dont know what to do

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This is why I am on here. Looking up if it’s okay to sleep for almost 24 hrs... my grandpa has been asleep since 4am and it’s currently 1am the next day.

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My husband is 71. I have noticed signs of dementia for like 5 years. He has Lewy bodies. Has tremors in his hands and arms. I noticed he has had a severe decline in the last year. Used to be able to take walks. Now he shuffles and I need to hold onto him. He is very tired during the day. At first it was so hard to accept this was happening. Now I just try to take it one day at a time. Not really sure what stage he is in. If I were to guess I would say stage 5 or 6. I have to take care of all his needs showering, shaving, assisting with the toilet. It breaks my heart!!!!

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If he shuffles then maybe he needs a shunt surgery

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I really appreciate your plight. My mother in law has recently moved in with us and I do exactly the same. When I remember how she was I'm heartbroken like you but I'm the one who has to deal with it. She does sleep a lot but the bodily functions she can't control makes her like a baby. It's not her fault but sometimes I could scream. Just take a breath and think tomorrow may be better!!

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My husband is 78 same with everything you mentioned😢

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Hi, My father aged 59 has vascular dimentia since 2014, who sleeps all the day around 16-18 hours. But now the situation is worse, he is not sleeping even for an hour. He is sleepless for over night. He is not even taking solid food and fruits and his activities differs from the last year, like he is not going for the toilet properly and some mental issues. We felt very bad for this and affraiding of his health.

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Hi Babu,

Thanks for your comment, I'm sorry to hear about these changes in your father.

If you need any information, advice or support, please do call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. You can talk to a dementia adviser on this number, who will listen to your situation and suggest some ideas to help make things better. More details of the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is hellpful,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Thank you very much for the info on excessive sleeping. I had my wife get a cognitive exam 5yrs ago.the dr. said "she's a normal 68 yrs old woman" I don't believe that."I live with her. How do I broch the subject with my wife"s doctor w/out embarrising her.

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Hi Jonathan,
Thanks for getting in touch - that does sound like a difficult situation.
One of our dementia advisers can support you with this - please call our support line on 0333 150 3456. You can talk to them so we can find out a bit more about your situation and provide information and advice. More details of the support line (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline
Hope this is helpful,
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My mom is 92 1/2 yrs old. She has started sleeping a lot during the day and sometimes falls asleep while eating meals . In the early evening she will stay awake for about 2 hrs and fall back to sleep and then I have to wake her up to put her to bed by 9pm. She does take some anxiety meds for demenitia and takes sleep meds before bed . She has been waking up at 2am. and refuses to stay in bed .we bring her downstairs and then she proceeds to fall asleep in the chair. What could that be ? The later stages like stage 4 and maybe the closing of life

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My mother who is 80+ plus, has Alzheimer's and focal epilepsy. Alongwith other conditions such as diabetes, cholesterol etc.. . she use to sleep alot but is now sleeping even more and a very deep sleep. She use to wake up at meal times and eat - now I basically have to force feed her..
I have to get her to eat and take her meds on time ..
Is this common for Alzheimer's- what do you do to get the patient to eat?

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Hi Majida, thank you for getting in touch, we're very sorry to hear about your mother's sleeping and eating problems.

We would first recommend speaking with your mother's GP about these changes in behaviour.

We have some information on eating here which might be helpful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/what-can-genetic-tests-tell-us-about

You can also call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 for more information, advice and support. More details on our phone support (including opening hours) are available here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is helpful,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My 77year old husband has I believe started with dementia a good while ago but gets angry when I try talk about it I went see his doctor who at first was helpful and got him into the surgery under false pretences after a talk suggested to my husband went to a memory clinic, he refused. He is so bad tempered, suspicious. always dropping of to sleep and even asked where I was when talking to me. I have been doctors three times in secret and got nowhere. I really need help but what can I do?

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Hi Valerie,
Thanks for getting in touch, and sorry to hear about your husband.

This sounds like a really difficult situation - particularly if you've already been encouraging him to see the doctor and feel like you haven't got anywhere.
We have some advice on our website for how to offer help to somebody who doesn't want it. You may find this useful to read: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/how-offer-help-someone-dementia-who-…

You may also find it helpful to speak to a dementia adviser. You can call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 and somebody will be able to learn more about your situation and give tailored information, advice and support. You can read more details about the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline

Hope this is helpful,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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My grandpa is 85 years old and on my last Christmas he was acting like someone else and so my parents took him to the emergency room and they said he had Alzheimer’s and damenshia and he always says that we are people from the past and he always mixes up day and night and is always waking up and argues to go back to bed and he gets so angry and he gets so mad that we won’t let him leave because he falls and we take care of him and it’s just sad.

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My spouse of 54 years has dementia. he now is bedridden and sleeps night and day. I never go out for fear of soomething happening to him while I'm out doing errands. Is there anyway of telling how long he or others will live?

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Hi there Christinie,
Thank you for your comment. We are very sorry to hear about your husband's condition. Please know that we're here for you, and there are people you can talk to about how you're feeling during this difficult time.
You can directly talk to other people living with or affected by dementia within our online community, Talking Point: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/ This is open 24/7.
For information, advice and support, you can also call our support line and speak with a dementia adviser on 0333 150 3456 - you can find more details and opening hours here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line
In the meantime, you may find this information about the later stages of dementia useful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how… This explains what to expect when someone has advanced dementia, as well as the care and support that's available.
We hope this is helpful.
-
Alzheimer's Society blog team

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Can someone please put my mind at rest. My darling dad who's 90 has Alzheimer and is now sleeping a lot. I understand this is normal he has become very frail and now shows no interest in leaving his room not even for his meals which he enjoyed in the care home. My mother who is a very suspicious person by nature and has never even visited him in the home we chose for dad is implying the only reason he's sleeping is that the care home are drugging him. He was given some antidepressants to try to help his low mood but only for a few days as they took him off because he couldn't wake up easily but unfortunately he's still sleeping and my mother is insisting they are lying and he's still on them to keep him quiet. The care home is lovely and Dad's been so well cared for by the staff and has bonded well with them and we are confident and see that all his needs are being met but she still insists his sleeping is due to him being drugged so I wondered if you have any writings I can show her on the sleeping pattern of people with alzheimers please. Thanks

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my mother i law has stage 5 alzheimer’s. She sleeps all night and during the day she’s likes to take naps throughout the day. I think this is normal at her stage but my husband (her son) insists she gets out of bed and not take naps. he thinks it’s bad for her. i know if i wanted to sleep i’d be bothered by someone forcing me to get out of bed. I’m i wrong or is my husband doing the right thing waking her from her naps.

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My mom is Going to be 88 diagnosed with dementia at 80. She lives with me and sleeps 20 hours a day . She can barely walk but still can get to the bathroom(sometimes) others I will have a mess to clean. She talks if spoken to still. Remembers things from the past but I don’t think she knows who I am. My question is. At this point how much longer will she live? I am drained. Can it be several more years or from your experience is it close. I just don’t know if I can continue not having a life for years to come.

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My grandma also has dementia and is 86 years of age. She lives with me, my husband and 3 year old son. She has recently entered the late stage and it has been exhausting for me as her primary caregiver. I often wonder if I’m going to walk in and find her deceased. My husband and I have altered our lives to take care of her which has taken a toll on our relationship. I completely understand your thoughts of just wanting it to be over because you’re so drained.

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I am in exactly the same situation as you are !!
Im exhausted as well... when will it all end. ??
Well.. I think we both know that is impossible to predict. We are both doing our very best and must feel good that we are making our mother comfortable in the last few years of her life... its hard I know and depression is close as life if no longer lived by our own schedule... but you are doing such a good thing... the future is a very tough thing to behold or comprehend!! So don't look at it... just look at two week blocks and survive... the best you know how too...

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Dear relatives or caregivers: Has any of your patients you’ve taken care have or had previous seizures with either Dementia or Alzheimer’s ?

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Hi Carrie,

Thanks for your comment.

We have this page on the link between dementia and seizures, in case it's helpful:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/what-link-between-seizures-and-demen…

Thanks,

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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