Why Do People with Dementia Sleep a Lot?

An older adult who fell asleep with a book on his lap.

Share This

Dementia is a complex neurological condition that affects millions of individuals worldwide, impacting memory, cognitive function, and behavior. Among the various symptoms associated with dementia, changes in sleep patterns, including increased sleep duration, are common. 

Understanding why people with dementia tend to sleep more can shed light on the intricacies of the condition and improve care strategies. Some reasons for the change in sleeping habits may be due to neurological changes, medication side effects, physical exhaustion, sleep disorders, a loss of time perception, and social isolation.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is indispensable for our health and well-being, akin to eating and breathing. It significantly influences brain functions such as cognition, concentration, and emotional resilience, enhancing learning and mental health

Adequate sleep is crucial for physical health too, aiding in the repair of heart and blood vessels, regulating metabolism, and supporting muscle growth. It bolsters the immune system, reducing the risk of illnesses.

Lack of sleep can compromise safety by impairing reaction times and is associated with increased risks of chronic diseases and shortened lifespan. Ensuring quality sleep can improve life quality and longevity, making it vital to address sleep issues promptly for overall health.

Causes of Increased Sleep in Individuals with Dementia

There are several causes of changes in sleep patterns for people with dementia, including:

Neurological Changes

Dementia leads to progressive cognitive decline due to brain tissue deterioration and neurotransmitter disruption, affecting brain regions that regulate sleep-wake cycles such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus

These structural and chemical changes impair the brain’s ability to maintain normal sleep patterns, resulting in increased sleep duration, heightened daytime sleepiness, and difficulties in initiating and maintaining sleep. 

These disruptions can contribute to worsening cognitive decline, impacting memory consolidation, emotional regulation, and the clearance of beta-amyloid plaques. 

Overall, dementia-induced changes in the brain can significantly disrupt sleep regulation, leading to worsening cognitive and behavioral symptoms.


Certain medications can help individuals with dementia manage symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, and depression. Some of these medications can have sedative effects, leading to increased drowsiness and longer sleep duration. 

Monitoring and adjusting medication regimens can help minimize these side effects. However, this needs to be done by a medical professional to ensure dementia symptoms are effectively managed.

Physical Exhaustion

A  close-up of a tired-looking older adult woman resting her hand on her head.

The cognitive and behavioral challenges that can come with dementia can be physically exhausting. Simple tasks that were once routine may become mentally and physically taxing, leading to increased fatigue and the need for more sleep to recover energy. 

Additionally, individuals with dementia may experience disruptions in motor function, making movement and activities of daily living more challenging. This further adds to fatigue and the desire to sleep more.

Sleep Disorders

Dementia can coexist with various sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder. These conditions can disrupt sleep quality, leading to fragmented or insufficient rest. 

As a result, individuals with dementia may compensate by sleeping more during the day to make up for lost sleep at night, exacerbating daytime sleepiness and further disrupting sleep-wake patterns.

Loss of Time Perception

As dementia progresses, individuals may experience changes in time perception. This confusion can lead to irregular sleep schedules, provoking more napping throughout the day and experiencing sleep difficulties at night. 

Establishing a consistent daily routine and creating a sleep-conducive environment can help regulate sleep patterns and improve overall sleep quality.

Social Isolation

Individuals with dementia may experience social withdrawal and isolation due to communication difficulties, memory loss, or behavioral changes. 

Lack of social interaction and meaningful engagement can contribute to boredom and depression, leading to increased daytime napping as a coping mechanism. Encouraging socialization and participation in stimulating activities can help combat loneliness and promote better sleep habits.

Navigating Sleep Challenges in Dementia

Understanding the factors contributing to increased sleep duration in people with dementia requires a complete look at neurological, physiological, and psychosocial factors. 

By addressing sleep disturbances and implementing supportive care strategies tailored to individual needs, caregivers can enhance the quality of life for individuals living with dementia.

At Juniper Village at Mount Joy, our memory care community offers specialized long-term support for individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory issues, focusing on enhancing quality of life.

Our communities feature therapeutic activities designed to stimulate cognitive functions and social interaction, manage nutrition and health, and support behavioral and emotional needs with trained staff. 

Discover our home-like nurturing environment at Juniper Village at Mount Joy. Book a personalized tour and experience firsthand how we cater to the unique needs of each resident with warmth and compassion. 

Take the first step towards peace of mind and a better quality of life for your loved one by scheduling a visit today.

Share This

Leave a comment