An empty bed in darkness

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.  

If this is the case you should speak to the GP, to rule out any infections or conditions that could be affecting the person's sleep. 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. 

Providing the person doesn’t appear to be uncomfortable or distressed, then sleeping more during the day isn’t normally a reason to be worried.

However, if a person is lying down in bed and asleep for most of the time they will need to be looked after to make sure they don’t develop any physical health problems. This sort of care is normally done by a health or social care professional in a care home or hospice. If the person is still living at home though, then it’s important to get advice from your GP or nurse on how best to do this.

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. 

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

Learn more about how dementia can affect sleeping patterns, as well as our tips for healthy sleep.

Sleep and dementia

This article was first published in 2019. It was most recently updated on 12 May 2022.

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My wife has been in the bed in the same position for 4 days she only mumbled no clear words very painful when we try to move her or change her she is sleeping all the time she has dementia once in a while we get a smile won’t eat or drink

Hi Fred,

We're very sorry to hear this. If you need to talk to someone, or would like some support, please call our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. More information about the support line (including opening hours) can be found here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line 

We hope this helps.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My LOs primary doctor is currently not responding to my questions about my LO, or my concerns for him. Not getting a full 8 hours of sleep, is this causing more brain cell damage?
My 82 grandmother got diagnosed with dementia in 2020 just a few weeks before covid lockdown began She started having all kinds of hallucinations of me getting kidnapped or going out with random strangers. She would ask me about these incidents as soon as I came home from work about but of course none of these incidents really happened. She would tell us everyday that she saw children going to school in a school bus which was also not possible since all schools were closed and lockdown had also begun. She started speaking total gibberish and we were not even able to have a proper conversation with her for 5 minutes. She would feed dettol hand wash to our plants instead of watering them as a result of which all our plants died. She also started tearing of flowers from our plants. A couple of months back she was about to give my pads as a gift to our neighbour and thankfully I managed to stop her just in time. She started doing all kinds of destruction around the house so we had to lock alot of places in our house. She had left the tap open in the washroom once and we had completely run out of water so we have to lock the washroom as well and only open it when she or any of us have to use it. She needs help with bathing and changing her clothes because she either wears her clothes the wrong way/ wears 2-3 layers/wears wet clothes and doesnt want to remove them. It is extremely difficult to get her to eat because she keeps saying she is not hungry or she says she has eaten when she has not and vice versa. She also doesnt remember what she ate if we ask her later. Recently she has been unable to communicate which part of her body she has pain/discomfort in. She says she has pain in one area but with her hand she points to a totally different area( last week she said her stomach was paining but kept pointing to her chest) and it was very confusing and difficult for us to know where exactly the pain was. She has also lost bladder control and ends up peeing on the bed or in her clothes. She is also unable to recognise our cook who comes twice a day(morning and evening) Even though the same person comes at both times she thinks there are 2 cooks for each time of the day. She has also totally lost track of time and is confused most of the time. What stage of dementia is this?

My wife was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia almost 3 years ago, she is now 52 years old, she has recently increased her sleep time, she sleeps 14 hours a day, and when she wakes up she tells me she feels tired. According to the article, does that mean she is in the advanced stage of dementia?

Hello Peter and thanks for getting in touch.

If you are based in the UK, we recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers to discuss your wife's situation. They can answer your questions about dementia, and 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/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, we have information on our website that you may find useful around the progression (or stages) of dementia: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how-dementia-progresses/progression-stages-dementia

And information specific to frontotemporal dementia, including further details about symptoms in the later stages of FTD: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/types-dementia/frontotemporal-dementia 

We hope this is helpful.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

I have been caring for an 86 elderly man with dementia for almost 2 years now..I have noticed just recently all he wants to do is sleep. When I wake him up he just tells me he wants to sleep longer...with that being said do I let him sleep or wake him up for daily routines

I got no help from anyone at Alzheimer’s organization as I needed Respite care for my husband while I recover from hip surgery
We can not afford $141.00 a day
So support group just to talk but never help the person it’s still a terminal illness you get more help if you had cancer

My husband has parkinson dementia. He has it a long while. He had a heart attack when he was 59. He hasn't been the same since. His Dementia was pretty bad with Hallucinations but got a new tablet and isn't as bad. His parkinson has started to take hold. He has the stoop. Dragging his feet. Heavy legs.. We have very little conversation. He had really low blood pressure and couldnt get anything for his Parkinson. Lately his blood pressure has went up enough to get Madopar. Only started it about 4 weeks. He was sleeping a lot before.. Still is. Can't watch certain things on television.. Can be not to bad at times.

Hi Pat, thanks for getting in touch.

If you ever need someone to talk to, please know that our Dementia Advisers are here for you through our support line on 0333 150 3456. (Opening hours and further details at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line)

You might also benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point. Here, carers and other people affected by dementia share their experiences, and offer advice and support to others going through similar situations. You can browse the conversations within the community or sign up for free: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk

We hope this helps for now, Pat. Please do call the support line on 0333 150 3456 if you need us.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

Reading all the comments was an eye-opener and ver helpful. My husband was diagnosed with moderate stage of Vascular Dementia recently by the VA (Veterans Administration). Many of the symptoms in the comments are similar. But we are blessed to have the support of the VA and family.

My mother is 62 years old, she was diagnosed with dementia two years ago. She sleep a lot day and night, and when she is up she will go to the bathroom to use the toilet she will leave her diaper on the bathroom floors and after that when she will wash her hands, and every time she eat her food she will leave her dishes around the house and not put them back in the kitchen and put trash any where in the house.

This behaviour is quite normal as your mom will gradually forget what to do next.
Please learn as much about her condition as you can otherwise you will think she’s just being awkward or pretending.
It’s a very difficult disease for family members, to be prepared for the years ahead you will need lots of patience and compassion.
All the best

My husband, now aged 69, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, although with hindsight he was probably suffering with it for at least four years before.
For the last two years he has not really spoken. He can just about say say yes and no. His comprehension is very limited too and relies on me for everything really. He remembers all the family members but forgotten lots of other people and how to do many things and when to change his clothes.
Over the last few months he has shown signs of weariness and suddenly gets waves of tiredness and has to sleep. He may sleep soundly for ten minutes or up to an hour.
He goes to bed about half nine and will go straight to sleep and be awake six ish.
I just wondered what stage we are at. Because his symptoms seem to cross all the stages …and are we doing the correct thing in letting him sleep during he day. It used to be maybe one nap but now it is up to three a day.
We do go out for walks and visit family and see friends for lunch. My days can be very quiet….as we have no conversations now. We speak with yes or no questions.

Everyone is different, I was diagnosed with dementia years ago around 40yrs of age.
I am now 85 years blessed old , with a great life. (Pardon the combinations gramma) thanks, Many successful careers AirForce Government private industry etc.
I’ve had a few illnesses due to falling and injuring my head. Recovered and now improving my walking due to prior difficult back surgery… also thigh muscle tear during Major College SWC football official yrs.
My goal success has been related to viewing each difficulty as a challenge. After college was cut by Dallas Cowboys (1960) and the awesome career started.
My purpose in responding…..never expect same thing due to similar circumstances.
l drive to church, sing with my choir (large) and have been married 60+ years to same
Fabulous wife.
Most of my typos result from large fingers and probably aging process (smiles)
Again remember my purpose and understand I’m not perfect but hope this helps in analyzing the subject under study.

You sound like what I have with my husband. He is 73 and was a a very smart man but seems these days he just answers yes / no. Conversation is gone and he seems to sleep all the time. He wants to go to bed right after a meal. He can no longer use his computer,iPad or cell phone. He seems to have a good appetite. But he isn’t able to choose what food he wants to eat. I just put it on the plate. Long days for me unless we have company. He still recognizes family and friends . Sad disease.

Sounds exactly the same…shame we don’t live near each other!

My mother 98 has dementia she is very depressed myself sister care for her. She won't accept that her flat where she lives is hers and keeps asking to be taken home the memory clinic ask to do telephone appointments with her which I won't accept and say either they visit or I take her to clinic but they cancelled appointments at last minute. She gets verily aggressive at times normally we trace this to a water infection. She has trouble walking supposed to use zimma to walk but doesn't think it's hers if we go out have to take her in wheel chair. With in minutes of coming back from shopping trip can't remember going has excellent appetite but still wastes lot of food. I go in the morning to check she is up get her breakfast clean up then my sister goes sits with her from 1230 to 6.00then I return 7 till she goes to bed at 10.00 in between she's constantly on phone wanting company. With very little help we are at breaking point.

Hi Denis,

Sorry to hear about your mother, it sounds like a stressful time for you all.

Please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. One of our dementia advisers can learn more about your situation and give tailored information, advice and support. You can find more details (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps,

Alzheimer's Society web team

Hello, thank you for sharing your story. I am currently going through the same instances however I believe we caught it at an early stage so it’s been a bit better. Most of the symptoms you mentioned my 93 year old grandmother had, and it was due to a UTI infection progression. We are currently on a low dose of antibiotic therapy and it’s been helping tremendously through hospice. I hope this helps. Take care

My granny is 97 and has Dementia. On set 4 yrs ago after my dad her only son passed. I take care of her at home 24/7. She is starting to sleep more during the day and I know this part of the process. Sometimes she goes days and nights with NO SLEEP AT ALL. When she does sleep all day my question is do I wake her or let her sleep. She can be like a grumpy child at times.

I have a identical twin sister that is in late stage dementia. Should I expect this will happen to me also? We are 82 years old.

Hi Karen,

Thanks for getting in touch. We're very sorry to hear about your twin sister, and hope she’s getting the care and support she needs – and that the blog above was helpful.

We're afraid there isn’t enough evidence to know if an identical twin is more likely to develop dementia than a non-identical twin or other sibling. What we do know suggests that there’s no reason to think that an identical twin will definitely get dementia just because their sibling has.

Genes can play an important role in some types of dementia but there are many other risk factors that might cause someone to develop the condition. If you’re ever worried about your memory or thinking, we suggest making an appointment with your GP who should be able to help.

We hope this helps, Karen. Wishing you all the best.

Alzheimer's Society knowledge team

My husband has had dementia for about 6 years. He’s very easy going and can do a few things himself. But he sure sleeps a lot and some nights he punches and yells. I have to wake him up cause he hits me.I wanted to bring help in. But he doesn’t want me to. I don’t get a lot of sleep because he has to be squeezed up against me at all times.

Thanks for getting in touch.

We'd suggest calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with a dementia adviser. They will listen to your situation and provide information and advice specific to you. Read more about the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

In the meantime, we have an article titled 'How to offer help to someone with dementia who doesn’t want it' that you may be interested in: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/how-offer-help-someone-dementia-who-…

We also have a factsheet about denial and lack of insight. Some people with dementia may have limited or no awareness of their symptoms and the difficulties they are having, even when obvious to those around them. This may be because the person is in denial, or because they have what is known as ‘lack of insight’: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/help-dementia-care/understand…

We hope this is helpful for now - please do call our support line for more dementia information and advice specific to your situation.

Alzheimer's Society website team

First stages of dementia doctors wanted to put her in hospice but I wanted to take care of her as well as three other siblings now my mom got her way back I got her to start eating and interacting she's playing with the computer now but my sister means her time to watch her she tells you to go down and go lay down tell her to go lay down throughout the day then when I go over I have her get up just stop laying down what should I do

Hello Mario,

We're sorry to hear this. 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

Wishing you all the best.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

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