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 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

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

Has anyone found a person with dementia standing up sleeping? Hanging on to a towel rack in bathroom or hanging on to tall dresser - just standing - maybe stiff - not sure. She got mad when i tried to move her.

Hello my mother is 94 she has gone on dementia medication a week ago and mum tends now to sleep all day and night she is refusing her food but having ensure drinks this is worrying me it’s been like 3 days now not eating will it be her dementia or the new medication thanks

Hello Diane,

Thanks for your comment.

While it can be normal for a person with dementia to sleep more than usual, it is also important to eat well. We have some information on our website that you may find helpful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/daily-living/poor-appetite-de…

If you're worried about your mother and would like advice on supporting her to sleep and eat well, you can call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. A trained dementia adviser can listen to you and give you more information, advice and support.

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps, Diane.

Alzheimer's Society website team

Hello Diane,
My husband is 55 now and has been diagnosed with an aggressive early onset Alzheimer’s a year ago.
My husband sleeps a lot too & doesn’t want to eat and is on dementia medications. The doctor says it’s part of the disease because we did lower some medications to see if it would help, but hasn’t. He has gotten worse.
The doctors gave him a medication to help give him some appetite.
I am so sorry you and your mum are going through this.
The Covid threw my husband into this by him having seizures in 2/2020 from Covid and it took out 20% of his brain. I do think however he had an under lying condition from a knee surgery that the sedation had effected his brain.
So when he got Covid it advanced this brain trauma. The doctor says he has less than a year to live. I’m praying for a miracle and we have two sons at home still.

My 78 year old husband was diagnosed with Dementia in Alzheimer’s Atypical in February 2021. I find his symptoms very confusing. He eats very well but is steadily losing weight. His long term memory is amazing but he can’t dress himself, use a phone or operate the tv. The first few hours after waking up In the morning he is like a helpless child but later in the day he can hold a good conversation with me and still has a good sense of humour.. He is an avid tv watcher and watches the same few programs over and over. He recognises people but shows no interest in their conversation or lives. He has OCD and all his belongings and clothes etc have to be placed exactly in the same place everyday. He sleeps about 16 hours a day, getting up about 3 times to use the toilet at night without my help. He doesn’t like me to go out for more than an hour but doesn’t like going out himself and won’t have anyone in to sit with him. He is waiting for knee replacement surgery and is inconstant pain, which doesn’t help. I am so tired. I am not alone but am very lonely. I rarely see anyone other than my husband and would love to have some sort of social life. I feel guilty for feeling selfish and don’t know how I’m going to cope when my husband’s condition progresses.

Hi Kay,

We're really sorry to hear about how you've been feeling.

We have some information on our website that you might find helpful, including getting help and support as a carer: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/help-dementia-care/getting-su…

It sounds like you might also benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where people affected by dementia can share their experiences. You can browse the conversations within the community or sign up for free here: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk

If you ever need advice, information or support, you can always call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps, Kay

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My wife of 58 years has dementia since 2016. Both of us are 82. I am her sole care giver. I have her on an excellent routine and I am blessed that she still has her great disposition and we are both in fine physical condition. We live in a rather remote rural area in the Pocono Mountains of PA, USA, so my main concern is that I worry if anything drastic should happened to me. She can't use the phone and would be confused and helpless. How do I set up a contingency plan for emergencies?

Hello Gerald,

As you are based in the USA, we would strongly suggest contacting the Alzheimer's Association helpline: https://alz.org/help-support/resources/helpline

In the meantime, we do have advice on our website that may be of interest. For example, we have information on how to prepare in case of an unplanned hospital stay: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/help-dementia-care/going-into… And other advance care planning webpages that could be useful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/categories/support/advance-care-planning

We hope this helps for now, Gerald.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My mum has vascular dementia, after a stroke, and has recently started to sleep a lot in the morning, even when the carers come in, and in the afternoon, so I can't go out, as I can't leave herself, she also talks in her sleep, and if I leave to go to the toilet, or kitchen, she wonders where I am, and thinks I'm somewhere else

My husband has had dementia for 11years but also has emphasymia.he struggles to breathe but will not use inhaler or nebuliser.h3 has started to sleep not only all night but for many hours in the day if I let him.he gets up and then wants to go back to bed because he doesn’t remember he has just got up

So much here that rings a bell. Emotionally I've just sort of switched off in order to survive but I'm so tired. I go to bed exhausted I get up exhausted. None of what I do is hard. It's just unending.
Andy

Hi Andrew,

We're sorry to hear this. If you'd like to talk to someone, we'd recommend calling our support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They can listen to your situation and provide information, advice and support. You can find more details about the support line (including opening hours) here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/dementia-connect-support-line

You might also benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where people affected by dementia can share their experiences and offer support and advice. You can browse the conversations within the community or sign up for free here: https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk

We hope this helps, Andrew.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My father-in-law can actually nod off in between eating his food Wether a cup of tea or hot meal.he does have dementia and acute deafness. 90 years old.looks like its got a hold of him unfortunately

My mum can do that, if she drinking a cup of tea, or slicd of toast in the morning, I have to take the cup off her, once she spilt it, but luckily it was luke warm ,and didn't burn herself

My wife has been admitted to hospital, yesterday she was being discharged tomorrow or Friday 25th/3/2022. She looked like someone who had taken drugs of someone, I asked the nurse who was her named nurse, said no, I asked for a doctor a consultant came and said she was suffering delirium so we anithatised because she was lying over the arm of the chair, I asked if if anyone had called the Parkinson’s consultant. No was the answer, I am her consultant. He said she was suffering delirium so that’s why we did that, now is there abuse, neglect taking place here all they wanted to do is to keep her quiet as the nursing staff don’t have time to treat her properly.

Hi George,

We're very sorry to hear this. We would strongly recommend calling our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with one of our trained dementia advisers. They can listen to your situation, and provide specific information, advice and support.

You can find information on support line opening times here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/dementia-connect-support-line

We hope this helps, George.

Alzheimer's Society blog team

My husband has VCI, and he falls asleep at around 3 or 4 every night. Gets up at 11 or 12:00. Is this due to his VCI diagnosis?

My husband won't stay in bed for long. I manage to get him back a couple of times in the night but after that, if he wants to doze on the settee downstairs, for the sake of my sanity, I leave him to it.
Another tip though is that he was having difficulty swallowing tablets so I now bury them in yoghurt on a spoon. Would also work with honey or jam.

I'm sleeping more during the day but staying up later at night. My regular bed time is 12:30. But now I can stay up until around 2am. I'm a long term survivor living with HIV. 35yrs. now

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