Why Do Dementia Patients Sleep So Much? Causes and Management

why dementia patients sleeps a lot

The word “dementia” is wide and covers a range of illnesses that result in a marked decline in cognitive function, impairing language, memory, problem-solving, and other thinking skills. This decline is bad enough to disrupt daily life and make simple tasks difficult. The World Health Organization lists dementia as the seventh most common cause of death globally and as a major contributor to dependency and disability in the elderly.

Dementia is a symptom of multiple underlying illnesses and conditions rather than a distinct disease in and of itself. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common causes of dementia, characterized by a chronic neurodegenerative process that destroys brain cells over time, leading to deteriorating thinking ability and memory. However, dementia can also be caused by vascular issues, such as stroke, or other neurological conditions.

The effects of dementia are profound, impacting every aspect of a person’s life. People with dementia often struggle with remembering recent events, trouble with language, disorientation, mood swings, and changes in personality. These symptoms can make it difficult for individuals to maintain their independence, requiring assistance with various aspects of daily living.

One common symptom that people may notice in individuals with dementia is changes in sleep patterns, including excessive sleeping.

Does Sleeping a Lot Indicate Dementia?

Excessive sleep is a common characteristic observed in dementia patients, especially those in the advanced stages. There are several reasons behind this pattern of excessive sleep, and it’s important to understand that sleeping a lot can indeed be a sign of dementia.

As dementia progresses, significant changes occur in the brain that can disrupt the regular sleep-wake cycle. One of the main factors contributing to excessive daytime sleepiness in dementia patients is the debilitating fatigue caused by the disease itself. This condition makes it increasingly difficult for patients to remain awake during the day.

Another factor contributing to excessive sleep could be the side effects of medications used to manage dementia symptoms. These medications can sometimes induce sleepiness.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is prevalent among the elderly, particularly those diagnosed with dementia. While not necessarily harmful, it might indicate dementia progression. Increased sleepiness could complicate patient care management as it may lead to decreased responsiveness or communication.

Sleeping all the time tends to occur more frequently in the later stages of dementia. However, it’s important to note that dementia manifests differently in each individual, and the onset of symptoms can vary.

A link has been found between vascular dementia and excessive sleeping. Changes in sleep patterns, including sleeping a lot, are common in this form of dementia. Moreover, excessive sleeping may also predict a higher risk of developing dementia later in life.

According to a 2011 study, excessive daytime sleepiness could be an indicator of vascular dementia. A recent study by researchers in the US suggested that a shift towards longer periods of sleep might indicate the early stages of dementia.

Effects of Excessive Sleep in Dementia Patients

Excessive sleep is common in people with dementia, particularly in the later stages of the disease. Although it may raise concerns, the majority of experts concur that it is not always harmful to let a person with dementia sleep through the day. It is crucial to comprehend the possible negative consequences that this symptom may have, though.

Disturbed Sleep-Wake Cycle

Excessive daytime sleepiness often indicates a disrupted sleep-wake cycle. The damage caused by dementia to the brain can directly affect sleep and other functions. Patients may experience excessive daytime sleep and insufficient nighttime sleep as a result of this disturbance. 

Increased Cognitive Impairment

Dementia often results in increased daytime sleepiness and cognitive impairment. Therefore, excessive sleep could potentially exacerbate cognitive decline.


There’s a link between sleep disturbances, including excessive sleep, and depression in dementia patients. Depression is common in people with dementia, and changes in sleep patterns can be both a symptom of depression and a contributing factor.

Physical Health Risks

Prolonged periods of inactivity, such as excessive sleep, can lead to physical health risks like muscle weakness and bedsores.

Reduced Quality of Life

A lower quality of life may result from getting too much sleep, which can reduce the amount of time available for social interactions and interesting activities.

While these potential effects highlight the need for management and intervention, it’s crucial to note that each dementia patient’s situation is unique. One person may not always be harmed by something that is harmful to another. As a result, it is critical to confer with medical experts to ascertain the optimal course of action for each patient’s care.

Managing Excessive Sleep in Dementia Patients

Dealing with excessive sleep in dementia patients can be challenging, but there are several strategies caregivers can employ to manage this symptom:

Establish a Routine

Establishing a regular daily schedule can improve the quality of your sleep and help the body’s internal clock. Regular meal times, engaging activities, and established bedtimes can provide structure and predictability, which can be beneficial for individuals with dementia.

Encourage Regular Physical Activity

Light physical activities such as walking or gardening, can help reduce daytime sleepiness and promote better sleep at night. However, it’s important to tailor the activity level to the individual’s abilities and overall health status.

Limit Daytime Napping

Although some people find that naps during the day are helpful, taking too many naps during the day can interfere with sleep at night. If possible, try to limit daytime naps, especially late in the afternoon or early evening.

Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment

The quality of your sleep can be considerably enhanced by a peaceful, dark, and cozy sleeping space. To reduce distracting noise, think about using a fan or white noise machine.

Manage Diet

Food habits can have an impact on sleep. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine, especially in the few hours before bed, can help reduce sleep disturbances. Additionally, since they can be uncomfortable and interfere with sleep, large meals right before bed should be avoided.

Review Medications

Sleep issues can be exacerbated by certain medications used to treat dementia symptoms. Always consult with a healthcare professional to review the patient’s medications and consider any potential impacts on sleep.

Consider Light Therapy

Bright light exposure in the morning has been shown to enhance sleep quality and help the body’s internal clock. This therapy can be particularly useful for dementia patients who experience disrupted sleep-wake cycles.

Provide Mental Stimulation During the Day

Engaging dementia patients in stimulating activities, such as reading, puzzles, or memory games, can help keep them alert during the day, promote cognitive function, and encourage better sleep at night.

Seek Professional Help

If managing excessive sleep becomes increasingly difficult, it’s advisable to seek advice from a healthcare professional. They might recommend different therapies, change the patient’s medication, or send them to a sleep specialist for additional assessment.

Addressing Sleep Issues in Dementia Patients

Addressing excessive sleep in dementia patients can be complex, but an approach involving a consistent routine, physical activity, diet management, and professional advice can improve sleep patterns and quality of life. The key is patience and understanding, as changes may not occur immediately. Always consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice. We can improve the comfort and quality of life for dementia patients by using the appropriate techniques.


Scroll to Top