Do Those Living with Dementia Sleep a Lot? (Is it Normal?)

do dementia patients sleep a lot

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A loved one suffering from dementia is prone to sleep a lot, both during the day and at night. And this happens specifically in the later stages. Relatives and friends, who may suspect something wrong with a loved one observing this condition, might find it distressing.

In the later stages of dementia, sleeping more is a common symptom. This is because the impairment of a person’s brain gets more profound as the disease advances.

Therefore, an individual with dementia may find everyday actions such as conversing, eating, or attempting to comprehend what really is happening around them difficult. In addition, as a loved one’s symptoms progress, they may fall asleep often during the day.

Certain drugs might make them sleepy. And the most common among them are antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines.

Sleeping conditions independent of dementia, such as apnea (breathing that pauses during sleep), can also lead to sleeping for prolonged periods.

This is completely normal most of the time as the reasons are beyond control. Read on to find out why people with dementia sleep a lot and how you can help them.

Why Are Those Living With Dementia Constantly Sleepy?

Why Are Those Living With Dementia Constantly Sleepy

One of the hallmarks of late-stage dementia, particularly dementia with Lewy Bodies (LB), is that a loved one appears to require significantly more sleep than they did previously, and they feel exhausted when up. Hypersomnia is the medical name for excessive sleeping, and it is the polar opposite of insomnia, both of which can affect persons with dementia.

This, according to researchers, is due to neural alterations in the mechanisms that govern our sleep-wake cycles. However, a slew of other conditions might contribute to dementia fatigue. For example:

1. Medication

A loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia might have other health issues that interfere with their sleep, such as respiratory problems, chronic discomfort, or overactive bladders, which can cause frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Furthermore, numerous drugs treating common illnesses in older persons, such as osteoarthritis, cardiac or lung disease, or gastric reflux, may also have side effects that lead to sleep disruption.

2. Medical Conditions

Some people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia might have other health issues that interfere with sleep, such as respiratory problems, chronic discomfort, or overactive bladders, which can cause frequent midnight urine. Furthermore, numerous drugs treating common illnesses in older persons, such as osteoarthritis, cardiac or lung disease, or gastric reflux, may also have side effects that lead to sleep disruption.

3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute significantly to weakness and weariness. This vitamin (typically present in animal products) prevents the body from producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the body, leaving individuals exhausted all of the time.

Deficiencies or inability to assimilate the vitamin from dietary sources are significantly more frequent in older persons.

4. Depression

We know that dementia’s consequences may be catastrophic over time, wreaking havoc on everyday life and drastically affecting a person’s capacity to see the surroundings as they once did. So it’s easy to understand how sleepiness may be an indication that someone you care about has dementia could also be depressed or apathetic.

Excessive weariness, a lack of vitality, and difficulty sleeping are all common depression symptoms. People often have a harder time sleeping at night, and if they do, they may be more uncomfortable; others, on the other hand, may have a constant sensation of be more uncomfortable; others, on the other hand, may have a constant sensation of fatigue, prompting them to sleep more during the day.

Also Read About: Stages of Dementia: The 7 Progressive Stages Of Dementia

5. Boredom

Someone suffering from dementia may be unable to do all of their previous tasks. As you may expect, this can irritate them greatly. They could just go straight to sleep if there’s nothing else to do and if they’re not being engaged throughout the day in activities.

6. Confusion

Perhaps they just got up, glanced around, and couldn’t recall what it was that they were doing. Finally, they find themselves in bed and wonder, “It must be time for bed.” This happens a lot, and people aren’t happy when you try to wake them up for breakfast!

7. They Stayed Awake All Night

People with dementia are more anxious at night, which leads to them getting up and wandering around. You may find that them being up and wandering around at bedtime will lead to more fatigue during the day since they didn’t get adequate sleep that night.

8. It is Winter

People with dementia frequently forget basics such as how to check the clock, how to interpret mealtime signals, the season, or the idea that it’s still daytime. Therefore, they frequently preserve their inborn reaction to the darkness outdoors. As a result, they may sleep more in the winter.

9. Pain

People living with dementia often suffer from pain because of other reasons, and the only time they do not feel any pain is; any guesses? The time they spent sleeping. Thus, sleeping a lot could be their way to alleviate the pain they may be experiencing.

10. Sedatives

While it may appear rational to take sleeping medications or sedatives to manage sleep problems, this may exacerbate the problem in certain situations. Stronger sedatives have also been linked to negative effects in patients with dementia, including an increased risk of falling and a deterioration of sleep cognition. Discuss any sleeping issues with the doctor so  they can make the appropriate recommendations.

Dementia is Linked to Sleep Issues

Sleep isn’t just something that happens magically when our brains turn off while we sleep. Many brain centers must act effectively and communicate with one another for sleep to eventuate and for people to remain asleep.

This implies that many sections of the brain must be functioning well, and in dementia, when portions of the brain do not work as well as they once did, the process might be disrupted. When this happens, instead of sleeping for long amounts of time and being difficult to get up from, people can sleep for short periods and readily wake up.

Similarly, they can easily fall asleep even when awake. As a result, people with dementia frequently alternate between being awake and asleep throughout the day and night, with no consistent sleep intervals.

In dementia, being awake or sleeping at any moment is unpredictable, and other aspects of sleep are often poorly controlled. Things like muscular activation while sleeping. Muscles should normally relax or paralyze during sleep. However, this process is frequently disrupted in dementia. As a result, persons with dementia may experience movements.

Examples include leg cramps, including periodic limb movements, or jerking motions, like myoclonic or hypnic jerks. People with dementia may also see movement in their dreams, which appear to be playing out their fantasies. This is known as the REM behavior disorder, and it may not be very comforting for a bed partner who is attacked while sleeping.

What To Do If A Person With Dementia Spends A Lot Of Time Sleeping?

If the individual has advanced dementia and has progressively begun sleeping more, it is most probably attributable to the dementia advancing.

Nevertheless, if extreme sleeping begins suddenly or the person does not appear to be in good health in other respects, there might be another reason.

In this case, you should see a physician to clear out whatever diseases or conditions that are affecting the person’s sleep. It’s also worth requesting a medication review from your doctor or chatting with a pharmacist, as medications might have a variety of negative effects.

Sleeping more throughout the day isn’t usually a cause for concern if the person doesn’t look to be restless or troubled.

However, if a person spends most of their time in bed sleeping, they will require special attention to avoid developing physical health concerns. In a care home or hospice, care and support professionals usually provide this type of care. However, if the individual is still living at home, you should get guidance from your doctor or nurse on how to proceed.

Final Thoughts

Nobody knows why dementia causes sleep disturbances. Sometimes a person’s internal ‘biological clock,’ which calculates what time it is, may be interrupted, causing them to feel fatigued at inopportune times.

Other regions of the brain regulate our ability to stay awake, and if they are impaired, they may stop working correctly.

Dementia can cause a person’s sleep pattern to completely invert, with them being up all night and dozing all day.

As a person grows older, the quality of their sleep deteriorates. They get less deep or ‘slow-wave‘ sleep, which is important for keeping the brain healthy and rejuvenated.

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