Busy > Learn About Sleeping Disorders in Dementia
16th Jul 2022
Could Excessive Sleeping Signify Dementia

Learn About Sleeping Disorders in Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia, an irreversible impairment of brain function, affects cognition, speech, problem-solving and other brain abilities. Its most prevalent cause is Alzheimer’s disease. It comes in many forms, and older persons are disproportionately affected by it. Brain cells succumbing to dementia behave abnormally and are ageing more rapidly than brain cells not suffering from dementia. Although dementia has no recognised treatment, some medications can slow down its development. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s disorder frequently have trouble sleeping, and not getting enough sleep can make other dementia effects worse. Unrest in sleep is among the most troublesome dementia symptoms.


Is Prolonged Daytime Sleeping Prevalent among Dementia Patients?

A patient with dementia frequently spends considerable time sleeping, both day and night, notably in the later phases. Later-stage dementia is commonly characterised by increasing sleepiness. The extent of brain damage increases as this condition worsens and the affected person’s overall health deteriorates. So, patients find it exceedingly tiring to perform reasonably simple activities like conversing, eating, or attempting to grasp what is happening around them. As their symptoms worsen, this may cause them to sleep more during the day. Sleeping more can also be influenced by sleep disorders unrelated to dementia, such as apnea, which is the term for breathing irregularly while asleep.


Reasons for Excessive Sleepiness During Dementia:

Any of the below could be a reason for excessive sleepiness during dementia:

  • Dementia’s worsening brain degeneration can escalate the patient’s need to lie down.
  • In dementia, the brain cells perish and there is a loss of muscle coordination, the patient may thus become inactive because of their limited mobility.
  • The prognosis of dementia may frequently be accompanied by depression, which may be taken for getting some shut-eye.
  • Patients can experience generalised drowsiness because of eating less.
  • Sleepiness can also be a consequence of the many drugs taken by the patient.


What to do if a Dementia Patient Sleeps a lot?

If someone has dementia and has slept progressively, it is probably because the dementia is getting worse. Consult a doctor to figure out any illnesses or ailments that might hinder the person’s ability to sleep. Given that medications can have various side effects requesting a medication review from the GP or consulting a pharmacist may also be worthwhile. Sleeping excessively during the day is typically not a cause for concern, so long as the individual doesn’t appear to be in pain or agitated. To ensure that they don’t experience any physical health issues, patients who spend most of their time lying asleep in bed need to be taken care of. An occupational therapist or social worker typically provides this treatment in a hospice or care facility. But if the person is still living at home, it’s crucial to seek guidance from your GP or nurse on the most effective way to handle this.


Why is Sleep Affected by Dementia?

Nobody fully comprehends why dementia affects sleep habits. Some people may experience sleepiness at an inappropriate period of the day because their inner body clock, which determines the time, is disrupted. Other brain regions regulating our ability to stay awake might also sustain injury and cease functioning effectively. Dementia patients can experience a complete reversal of their typical sleep cycle, waking up the whole night and, after that, sleeping all day. People with dementia frequently experience the following sleep issues:

  • Having trouble sleeping at night and napping during the day.
  • Waking up early and mistaking it for the day or the start of work.
  • A lack of ability to distinguish between day and night.
  • Waking up to go to the toilet and getting lost in the dark.
  • More frequent awakenings and extended periods of sleeplessness at night.


Typical Sleep Disorders in Dementia Patients

The following sleep problems are more prevalent in seniors, although dementia patients are more likely to have them:


  • RLS: Restless legs syndrome:

An intense urge to twitch the legs, particularly at night, is a hallmark of RLS. Patients with RLS are usually afflicted with Lewy body dementia.

  • PLMD: Periodic limb movement disorder

At night, PLMD patients have uncontrolled arm and leg movements. RLS is prevalent in PLMD sufferers.

  • OSA: Obstructive sleep apnea

OSA is characterised by nightly airway collapse that causes brief breathing pauses. OSA affects 40% of patients with Alzheimer’s, making it particularly prevalent. People with OSA are more susceptible to developing dementia.

  • Disorder of REM sleep behaviour:

In REM sleep behaviour disorder, patients vocally or physically act out their dreams, often in hazardous ways. It is occasionally the initial symptom of Lewy body dementia, most frequently observed in those with this condition.

  • Depression:

Despite being a mood disorder, depression is linked to sleeplessness and other sleep disorders. People with dementia frequently experience depression, and as the disease worsens, this prevalence rises.

As people age, their sleeping habits become less healthy, and they typically get less of the slow-wave or deep sleep necessary to maintain a healthy brain. Even though someone with dementia may sleep more than the average person their age, it is doubtful that all of that sleep will be of high quality. Since some require more sleep than others, a person’s pre-dementia sleep habits can also impact how much they sleep.


How to Assist Dementia Patients in Getting a Better Night’s Sleep?

A regular sleep schedule can benefit the dementia patient’s mood, clarity of thought, coordination, and energy levels during the day. These suggestions for helping them sleep better may be equally beneficial as medicines.

  • Take care of any underlying issues
  • Follow a routine
  • Unfiltered daylight
  • Skip the caffeine
  • Avoid getting overly hungry, thirsty, or full
  • Stay away from alcohol and tobacco
  • Engaging and entertaining activities
  • Make the bedroom a restful space
  • Shorten the screen time



Memory loss in dementia intensifies along with the thought, decision-making, logic, communication, and sensory issues that emerge as the condition advances. Although it has no known cure, there are ways to stop or slow its progression

through dementia medications and other forms of therapy. These can relieve symptoms and raise one’s condition of living. Using drugs is viewed as a last resort for those with dementia. The dangers of sleep aid involve sedation, more significant disorientation, and a higher chance of falling and getting hurt. Before giving a dementia patient a sleep aid, see a physician.



When does dementia get worse during the day?

Some patients may find it difficult in the late afternoon and early evening. Sundowning, which can cause agitation, irritability, or confusion, may occur in them. This is frequently right when exhausted caregivers need a break.


Is dementia detectable by a blood test?

The beta-amyloid protein, which builds up abnormally in dementia patients, can now be measured in blood samples by clinicians. Additional blood tests are being developed, and these diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s and associated dementias are still not widely available.


How does the dementia clock test work?

Early dementia can be quickly screened for using the clock-drawing test. It entails illuminating a clock on paper with numerals, hands, and a particular time. It is a clear sign of mental decline when one cannot do so.


Are people with dementia able to watch TV?

Although viewing television alone is not a practical option for those with dementia, they might find it enjoyable if they watch it with a loved one.


Is Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease the same thing?

There is a notable difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of referring to a specific disease, the term “dementia” describes a combination of indicators that various distinct brain disorders could cause. While Alzheimer’s disease accounts for between 60 and 80 per cent of all occurrences of dementia, there are many other forms of issues connected to dementia.


Can Alzheimer’s and dementia be cured?

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative condition for which there is no cure. On the other hand, the signs of some varieties of dementia may be treatable, depending on the underlying reason, such as a vitamin deficiency or drug combination.