Why Do People With Dementia Sleep So Much

Why do people with dementia sleep so much? Explore the reasons behind increased sleep in dementia patients, from fatigue caused by cognitive impairment to disrupted sleep-wake cycles.

It’s common for those with dementia to sleep a lot, especially as the disease advances.1 This frequent sleeping can worry their loved ones.2

In later dementia stages, the brain damage is severe and the person becomes physically weak.1 Doing simple things like talking or eating might be too tiring. This leads them to sleep more.1

Some drugs, like antipsychotics and antidepressants, can make them sleepy.1 Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea also play a role in this.3

Key Takeaways

  • People with dementia in later stages may sleep as much as 14-15 hours a day.
  • Medications like antipsychotics, antidepressants, and sleeping pills can contribute to sleepiness in dementia patients.
  • Lewy body dementia can cause sleep disturbances like insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs.
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder is common in certain types of dementia.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness may be linked to increased beta-amyloid and tau protein levels in Alzheimer’s disease.

The Progression of Dementia and Its Impact on Sleep

Dementia damages the brain, making daily tasks hard for those affected.1 They struggle with simple things, like talking or knowing where they are.1 Because of this, they might sleep more in the day.1 Some medicines used to treat dementia can also make them sleepy.4

The Gradual Decline in Brain Function

As dementia gets worse, daily tasks become very tiring for the person.1 This makes them want to sleep more during the day.

Fatigue from Simple Tasks

Doing normal tasks can wear out someone with advanced dementia quickly.1 They feel tired more often, needing to nap or sleep a lot.

Side Effects of Medications

Some medicines for dementia, like antipsychotics and antidepressants, can cause more sleepiness.4

Identifying Excessive Sleeping in Dementia Patients

If a person with dementia sleeps a lot more than before, we need to think about how the change happened.1 Has the extra sleeping come on slowly or all at once?4 Changing sleeping habits slowly might just be part of the disease. But, if it’s fast, there could be another health issue.4 Doctors will check for things like infections or problems with their medicines. These could be making them sleep too much.

Distinguishing Gradual vs. Sudden Changes

More sleep over time can be a sign that dementia is getting worse. As the brain is more damaged, the sleeping might increase.1 However, if the sleeping changes happen quickly, there might be something else going on.4 This could be linked to a different health problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible.

Ruling Out Other Underlying Conditions

Doctors have to look at all the causes if someone with dementia sleeps too much.4 They will test for infections and review the medications. They might check for other health issues too. Solving these problems could help improve their sleep.

Identifying excessive sleeping dementia

Why Dementia Affects Sleep Patterns

The link between dementia and sleep is complex. It’s thought that the disease’s impact on the brain plays a big role. Dementia messes with a person’s “biological clock,” leading to feeling tired at odd times.1 This also affects the area of the brain that should keep us alert, causing daytime sleepiness.1

Disruption of the Biological Clock

One major reason behind sleep problems in dementia is the loss of a set day-night rhythm. The brain’s suprachiasmatic nucleus normally governs our sleep and wake schedule. With dementia, this system can fail, making people want to sleep at strange times.

Damage to Wake-Promoting Brain Regions

Dementia doesn’t just mess up our sleep cycle. It also harms the brain regions that keep us awake. Without these parts working well, daytime sleepiness can become a common problem. The brain’s ability to stay alert is reduced due to dementia’s effects, leading to more sleep time.1

Reversal of Sleep-Wake Cycles

For some, dementia flips their sleeping schedule all around. Instead of night sleeping and day waking, they might sleep a lot during the day. This change can cause confusion and a feeling of being disconnected from the world.5

The Quality of Sleep in Dementia

Even if a person with dementia sleeps a lot, their sleep is often not good. They might not get enough deep, “slow-wave” sleep needed for the brain. This can affect their health and how refreshed they feel.1 The amount of sleep they need changes too. Before dementia, some needed more or less sleep. This makes it hard to know what’s normal for each person.

Decreased Deep Sleep

Dementia can cause less deep sleep, important for the brain.1 This lack of deep sleep can lead to feeling tired and mentally fuzzy. It’s a common problem as dementia gets worse.

Individual Sleep Needs

Each person with dementia may need a different amount of sleep.1 Some needed more sleep before their diagnosis, others less. Caregivers should learn about the person’s sleep habits and what they prefer. This understanding helps them find ways to reduce sleepiness and improve sleep.

Sleep Disturbances in Lewy Body Dementia

People with Lewy body dementia, like Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies, often have trouble sleeping.1 They may not sleep well, experiencing confusion, nightmares, and seeing things that aren’t there.1 Insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are also usual.1 They might even move or shout in their sleep, which is called REM sleep behavior disorder.1 This makes them feel tired and sleepy in the daytime.1

Restless Nights and Daytime Sleepiness

Studies show sleep problems are more common in Lewy body dementia than Alzheimer’s.6 A look across multiple centers found these issues in both Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on how often they happen and what they cause.6 People with Lewy body dementia are especially likely to feel very sleepy during the day.6 This might be linked to a decrease in certain brain cells.6

See also  The 7 Stages of Frontotemporal Dementia: A Helpful Guide

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Sometimes, those with Lewy body dementia act out their dreams and might hurt themselves or their partner during sleep.1 Low hypocretin levels might explain why they’re so tired during the day.6 Special sleep tests can help understand these sleep issues better.6

The Relationship Between Vascular Dementia and Excessive Sleeping

Vascular dementia may be linked to sleeping too much. Studies show that if someone is extremely sleepy during the day, they might develop vascular dementia in the future. Not all dementias, just this specific type.7 One reason is that the disease affects the brain directly. Other reasons include feeling down and how some medicines can make you sleepy.7

Vascular dementia can change sleeping patterns. This comes from brain changes, feeling depressed, medicines, and growing older.7 This form of dementia might get worse faster than others, but this can vary.7 Be alert; someone with this disease might sleep a lot even before they show other signs. This makes it tricky to figure out what stage they’re at.7 Sometimes, they might seem better for a short time, which adds another level of complication in tracking their sleep.7

There’s no magic pill for too much sleep in vascular dementia. But simple changes in daily life, doing more activities in the day, using melatonin, or adjusting medications can all help.7 If sleep or other symptoms suddenly get worse, it might be a sign of other serious problems like a stroke or infections. In these cases, a doctor should check things out.7

The link between vascular dementia and sleeping a lot is not straightforward. Many things play into why this happens. Such insight helps nurses, doctors, and family members offer the best care and make life better for those with this condition.7

Why Do People With Dementia Sleep So Much?

People with dementia might sleep a lot for several reasons. The disease can mess with the sleep and wake cycle in the brain.1 Feeling down and having mood issues, common in dementia, makes one tired and sleep more. Some medicines for dementia, like antidepressants, can cause sleepiness too.1 Also, studies show fast brain aging in dementia might link to too much daytime sleep, even before the disease is diagnosed.7

The Dementia Itself

Dementia messes with how we sleep by messing with the brain’s sleep control.1 As the illness gets worse and more brain cells are lost, daytime sleep can increase.

Depression and Mood Disorders

Feeling low and mood changes, which are common with dementia, make us tired and sleep more.1 The mental and emotional strain can lead to a wish for longer sleep times.

Medication Side Effects

Some medicines used in dementia, like antipsychotics, have sleepiness as a side effect.1 Changing these drugs could help reduce the urge to sleep so much.

Brain Aging

Studies hint that quick brain aging with dementia might directly cause a lot of daytime sleep.7 This shows that the brain changes tied to dementia can alter someone’s sleep.

Stages of Dementia and Excessive Sleeping

Sleep problems can happen at any point in dementia but are usual in the mid to later stages.1 When dementia gets worse, more daytime sleeping might occur.1 The link between sleepiness and dementia stages is not always simple. Some see better or worse symptoms at times.

In later stages, Dementia patients sleep a lot, both day and night.1 Some might sleep 14-15 hours daily.1 Simple tasks may tire them out, increasing sleep time.5 Drugs like antipsychotics and antidepressants can also make them sleepy.15

If dementia is due to Lewy body disease, sleep issues can be severe.15 Nights might be restless, with confusion, nightmares, and hallucinations.1 REM sleep behavior disorder could cause shouting and moving in bed, leading to possible injuries.1 As people grow old with dementia, their sleep quality worsens. Deep sleep decreases, impacting brain health.15

Dementia patients might mix up night and day, struggling to tell sleep time from wakeful hours.1 They might even reverse their sleep patterns, staying up all night and sleeping during the day.1 Excessive daytime sleep can cause health concerns. This needs careful watch in care settings or at home.1 If a dementia patient suddenly sleeps a lot more or shows other health issues, a check with a doctor is needed. This is to rule out any health problems affecting sleep.1

Managing Excessive Sleeping in Dementia

Coping with too much sleep in dementia patients can be tough. But, there are ways to handle this issue. Setting up a regular schedule, getting them to do things during the day, and getting enough light can balance their sleep patterns. Trying melatonin supplements might also be a good idea.1

Routine Changes

Keeping a daily schedule and avoiding sudden changes can aid in better sleep. Caregivers should aim for a set bedtime and a wake-up time. This can help the body fall into a natural sleep pattern.4

Daytime Activity and Light Exposure

It’s good to keep them active during the day and expose them to natural light. This includes light workouts, being social, or going outside. Also, limit naps to boost night sleep.4

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Melatonin and Sleep Aids

Melatonin can work well, but always talk to a doctor before starting it. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body know when to sleep. It’s key to make sure it won’t interfere with any other medicines they take.4

Medication Adjustments

If the sleeping a lot is due to medicine side effects, a doctor may change their dose. It might mean trying a new medicine. Doctors can adjust their meds to help them sleep better.14

Always talk to a healthcare provider before changing anything in their care. This keeps the person with dementia safe and healthy.14

Sudden Worsening of Dementia Symptoms

If a person with dementia gets suddenly worse, like sleeping a lot, maybe a bigger health issue is at play.1 These changes may hint at a new stroke, the main dementia getting worse, or an infection causing delirium.1 It’s key to have a doctor check these sudden shifts out fast to know what’s up and how to deal with it.

Underlying Medical Issues

Big shifts in dementia symptoms, especially sleeping more, could point to a hidden medical problem.1 Doctors should dig deep to find out if it’s a recent stroke, the dementia getting worse, or an infection. These might be behind the sudden changes.1

Infections and Delirium

One reason for a quick downturn in dementia, with lots of sleep, could be an infection causing delirium.1 Things like UTIs or pneumonia can stir up big changes in how someone thinks, acts, and even sleeps.1 Early spotting and treating these infections are vital in turning things around for the person with dementia.

Seeking Medical Advice for Excessive Sleepiness

If you feel very sleepy during the day, it’s wise to seek medical advice, no matter your health status.4 A doctor can check you over and do some tests to find out why. They will then offer advice on how to deal with being very sleepy. For people with dementia, doctors might suggest changing their medicines or trying other things to help.

If someone with dementia is sleeping a lot, it’s crucial to get them checked by a doctor.1 The doctor will figure out if this sleepiness is just part of the disease or if something more is going on.7 Getting medical help quickly can avoid more serious issues and make life better for these patients.

Sleeping too much in the daytime could hint at a memory problem, even if there’s no dementia diagnosis yet.7 Getting help early and dealing with sleepiness head-on is key to slowing down any memory loss and staying healthy and happy.

Caregiver Tips for Managing Sleep in Dementia

Caregivers are key in helping those with dementia sleep better.8 One strategy involves making the sleeping area calming. Ensure it’s comfortable, quiet, and dark. This helps prevent confusion or anxiety.

A regular sleep schedule is also vital.1 Having fixed times to go to bed and get up can stabilize the body’s clock. This leads to better sleep at night.1

Creating a Conducive Sleep Environment

Caregivers should think about the room’s temperature, light, and noise.9 Dimming bright lights before bedtime helps induce sleep.9 Making sure the bedroom is serene and cool without distractions also aids in sleeping well.9

Establishing Consistent Routines

A regular daily schedule benefits people with dementia a lot.8 It supports their body clock. This can reduce sleep problems and confusion.9 Doing calming activities before bed, like a bath or snack, prepares the mind for rest.9

Monitoring Sleep Patterns

Watching a person’s sleep habits closely is important.8 Note how long they sleep, the quality, and any restless behavior.9 Big changes might indicate health or medication issues. These must be checked by a doctor right away.1

Improving the sleep setting, sticking to routines, and keeping an eye on sleep help people with dementia sleep better.189

The Impact of Excessive Sleeping on Caregivers

Dealing with a loved one’s too much sleep is hard on caregivers, both emotionally and physically.10 People with dementia tend to sleep too much during the day and then struggle to sleep at night. This not only affects their own sleep but also the caregivers’.5 Caregivers find themselves always on watch, which messes with their own rest. This situation often leads to burnout.

Emotional and Physical Toll

The task of caring for someone with dementia, who sleeps a lot, can be a lot to handle.5 Those with dementia might sleep up to 14-15 hours daily. Their sleep is often not restful, which can be linked to their sleep habits before their illness.5 Such a drop in sleep quality for those with dementia affects caregivers who end up sleep-deprived and tired.

Seeking Support and Respite Care

For caregivers, getting help is crucial. They can turn to family, friends, support groups, or professional respite care. This is to handle the care of those with dementia who sleep a lot.4 The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource. It provides info and support for all kinds of dementia, including advice for caregivers.4 Taking breaks through respite care is vital for caregivers. It helps them refresh and deal with the strain of their duties better.

Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research wants to understand why dementia causes sleep problems.11 Scientists aim to learn more about the brain changes. This knowledge could help make better treatments.1112

Understanding the Brain Changes

In the future, researchers might find clues in the body and look for better medicines.1112 They are also looking at ways that don’t involve medicine. Things like adjusting lifestyle can help with sleeping patterns.

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Developing Targeted Interventions

Understanding how the brain changes lead to sleep issues is key.1112 Scientists want to make ways that are more personal and work better. They plan to use digital tech, make individual care plans, and work with families and communities. This teamwork could make life better for those with dementia.


In dementia, many people start sleeping a lot, especially in the later stages of the disease. This happens for many reasons, like how dementia affects the brain.13 It’s also linked to things like the side effects of medicine, feeling sad, and other health issues.7 Dealing with too much sleep is hard, but changing your routines, taking care of what medicine you use, and support from those around can make it better.

Scientists are still studying why people with dementia sleep more. They want to find better ways to help.137 Their goal is to find treatments that can improve the sleep and life of these individuals.

Helping dementia patients who sleep a lot involves many different steps. Each person’s situation is unique. Working together, doctors, family, and researchers can make a real difference.


Why do people with dementia sleep so much?

People with dementia often sleep a lot, particularly in later stages. They rest both day and night. Dementia impacts the brain directly, leading to tiredness from simple activities. Also, side effects of medications and other health issues play a role.

How does the progression of dementia impact sleep?

With time, dementia damages the brain more, making the person weaker. Simple actions become tiring, such as talking or understanding things around them. Medications can also make them sleepy.

How can you identify excessive sleeping in dementia patients?

Finding out if sleep changes happen quickly or over time is crucial. Gradual sleep increase might be part of the disease progression. On the other hand, sudden changes might signal other health problems. It’s important for healthcare providers to look for these issues.

Why does dementia affect sleep patterns?

The damage dementia causes in the brain can mess up the body’s sleep cycle. This can make the person feel sleepy at odd times. It can also affect their ability to stay awake during the day.

How does the quality of sleep change in dementia?

Quality sleep for a person with dementia is often lacking. They may not get enough deep sleep. They also might need different amounts of rest than before getting dementia.

What are the sleep disturbances associated with Lewy body dementia?

Lewy body dementia, which includes Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy bodies, brings about severe sleep problems. These include restless nights, confusion, nightmares, and seeing things that aren’t there. Issues like insomnia and restless leg syndrome are common too.

Is there a link between vascular dementia and excessive sleeping?

Research shows a strong link between lot of daytime sleep and later developing vascular dementia. This is because the disease and factors like depression affect the brain. It can also happen because of the side effects of various medications.

What are the reasons for excessive sleeping in dementia?

Several factors can lead to too much sleep in people with dementia. These include the disease’s direct effects on the brain, mood disorders, some medications, and faster brain aging.

How do the stages of dementia relate to excessive sleeping?

Sleep problems, including sleeping too much, can happen at any dementia stage. However, they become more common in the middle and later stages. As dementia worsens, daytime sleep increases.

How can excessive sleeping in dementia be managed?

To handle too much sleep in dementia, some helpful strategies include establishing a regular routine. Encouraging daytime activities and natural light can help. Supplements like melatonin and adjusting medications may also be useful.

What should you do if a person with dementia experiences a sudden worsening of symptoms?

If someone with dementia suddenly gets much sleepier, it could mean a significant health issue. This might be another stroke or a severe infection that needs fast treatment. In such cases, a healthcare professional should check the person quickly.

When should you seek medical advice for excessive sleepiness?

Anybody who is too sleepy during the day, even without a dementia diagnosis, needs medical advice. A healthcare provider can check for any underlying health issues and suggest how to handle the sleepiness.

What can caregivers do to help manage sleep in dementia?

Caregivers can make a soothing sleep environment and keep regular routines. They should watch for any sleep pattern changes that might need a doctor’s attention.

How does excessive sleeping in dementia impact caregivers?

Excessive sleep in dementia patients can be hard on caregivers emotionally and physically. Caregivers have to constantly watch over their loved one and their own sleep can get disrupted. Seeking help is important to manage the stress of caregiving.

What are the focus areas for future research on dementia and sleep?

Current research is looking into how dementia affects sleep and what changes in the brain cause these issues. The goal is to find better ways to manage sleep problems. This will aim to improve life for those with dementia and their caregivers.

Source Links

  1. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day
  2. https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/dementia-patients-sleeping-a-lot
  3. https://www.alzra.org/blog/sleep-changes-in-dementia-why-do-people-with-dementia-sleep-a-lot/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/vascular-dementia-and-excessive-sleeping
  5. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day?sort_by=created_2&page=,9
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9827922/
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vascular-dementia-and-excessive-sleeping
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20047832
  9. https://www.agespace.org/dementia/help-someone-with-dementia-to-sleep-better
  10. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/dementia-and-sleep
  11. https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/daytime-sleepiness-linked-elevated-brain-amyloid
  12. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day?sort_by=created_2&page=,8
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062259/