Is a lot of sleeping normal for Alzheimer's?

26 answers | Last updated: Oct 31, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's. There are days when she is ok, and then overnight, she will sleep the whole day. Is this normal?


Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

It is not unusual that people with Alzheimer's Disease develop a markedly variable sleep schedule. This is a disease that causes a loss of brain cells and interferes with communication between many of the remaining cells. The control center for sleep is located in the middle of the brain, and Alzheimer's Disease can wreak havoc in that center, which can lead to the kind of problem your mom is having.

It is important for your mom to be evaluated by her physician for her problem with intermittent excess sleeping. In general, people with Alzheimer's Disease feel better and think more clearly if they are on a more regular sleep schedule. It may be she has some other medical problem, a psychiatric problem or is on a medication that is playing a role in this. It may also be she will need a medication to better regulate her sleeping. In most cases, this is a fixable problem, and such a fix will likely improve her energy, mood and concentration.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Meds Meds and more meds! I hope families step up. Most meds cause more problems and they treat those problems with more meds!


Dottee answered...

Hi everyone, I am so glad the Internet exists. I am all alone with my Pa and I love him so much and today we had a "dip" day as I like to refer to the days when he is not himself and fuzzy in the head. Anyhow, thanks for the sleep advice. Today my Pa was so tired and it was a beautiful fresh sunny day and normally we would go for at least three long walks but today only one and loads of naps followed with his request to go to sleep at 6pm! Dad usually goes to bed at 9pm or later but today I tucked him into bed at 8:30. Yesterday Dad was right as rain and stuck to our daily schedule of breakfast, walk, read newspapers, lunch, walk, newspapers, nap and then another walk an hour before 6pm newshour and dinner. Today, wham! Different man, tuckered man, confused and not interested in conversation, confused to the enth degree. Today freaked me out. Sorry I just had to spill I know all of you are going through some stage of this so phew and breathe and thanks for being there all of you :)


Martinem answered...

Dottee: It sounds as though you are taking wonderful care of your father. Have you tried B12 shots? I think they are wonderful for aging people, especially those who don't like to take their vitamins.


Dottee answered...

Hi Martine,

Thanks for the advice I am taking Dad to a naturopath. It turns out my father had a urinary tract infection which I have since learned from our family physician is quite common amongst seniors. Now I know the symptoms; tired, incoherent sentences, lack of appetite and sluggishness. After a course of cipro Dad is right as rain, healthy appetite, focus is back and excercising two hours a day.


Muggins answered...

My spouse, diagnosed with moderate dementia two years ago, is now sleeping about 12 hours every night. He goes to bed about 10 pm and never awakes (except for bathroom needs) until 11 am or noon the next day. There is no nap, of course, because of this. And during the evening news, he will frequently drop off into a light sleep. I have asked about this and have simply been told the brain needs the rest. It does make my life easier as a caregiver, since I am "on duty" only about 10 hours daily. I sometimes run out for nearby errands in the morning while he is still sleeping. I do leave a very simple note for him just in case he wakes up while I am gone.


Terryy answered...

Thanks so much!! I take care of my mom since my dad died in August and her sleep patterns (way to much sleep) have been driving me nuts. And I am mostly all alone caring for her, so don't have a support group to know what to do. I feel like a warden when I am waking her up or making her eat or whatever. This is probably a drug problem, and we are trying different things, but its nice to see that i'm not the only one out there. Thanks.


Olderbutnotwiser answered...

No ONE answer is right or wrong. I attended an ALZ seminar and was comforted to learn that the daily struggle with just trying to remember the correct word or name is not only frustrating (for all concerned) but can make one tired or sleepy. I remember telling my two year old, "Please stop asking so many questions...you're making me tired!" And I was always told by mom that NAPS ARE A GOOD THING!


Gorilla gaurd answered...

My wife, now finishing the mid stage of Alzheimer's disease, definitely sleeps more. If we turn in at, say 10:00 PM, she will sleep until 9:00 or 10:00 am next morning. Often, like today, she was still in bed at noon. I just let her go, even though this behavior screws up the rest of our day, such as they are. the extra sleeping on her part gives me a little more time to myself to "get stuff done". I used to feel selfish about this, but don't any more. I treasure and need time to myself.


Pansqueen answered...

I am so happy I found this!! My father in law 4 weeks ago, totaled his car. So we had to put a stop to his driving. Then 3 weeks ago he had a stroke. 3 days in the hospital and 7 days in a nursing home for rehab. Now he's home, my husband has moved back into his fathers house but leaves for work at 4 am. That's when I come in and stay with him until my husband gets home. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's over a year ago. I believe he's headed into the final stage. This is no way to go out. Breaks my heart. But, we will love and take care of him as long as he needs it. No matter how difficult.


Ronsbabe2012 answered...

So glad to see all these answers! I have had my Mom with me for 3 weeks now. She is 90 and in the last stages of Alzheimer's. Some days she helps fold towels, break beans, small stuff. Yesterday she ate breakfast, went to the store with me ( wouldn't get out of the car) came home went to sleep and slept till 5:30pm. Ate and was back asleep within 2 hours and slept until 9 am today. I agree it does help me as a caregiver, but I worry that she sleeps too much. I try to involve her in activities but she is always too tired. Seeing these other responses lets me know I am not alone!


Gracieanne answered...

My husband was diagnosed four years ago. I feel like from reading all the information that he is in the middle stage. Over the past three or four months he is tired all the time. Almost as soon as he gets up, he says he is tired. Our family dr took him off of Namenda and Exelon patch to see if that would help. Other than those meds, he was on a high \blood pressure pill and various vitamins the neurologist had prescribed. Nothing has helped. He went to bed at 4 pm today. He is just exhausted all the time. He could have a better quality of life if he felt better during the day. The drs say this is just part of having dementia. I like to know real answers so I wish they would do an MRI and I could find out if the ALZ has affected the sleep part of his brain. Maybe I should just be grateful it has not affected other parts of his brain, i.e. anger, difficult personality, etc.


Ppat55 answered...

My husband has taken to sleeping up to 11 - 12 hours a day. Goes to bed around 11 and many times is not up before noon. Can nap in his chair all day as well. Has been diagnosed with Vascular dementia about 5 years ago. This seems to be more pronounced when put back on Aricept. Not sure if that is the cause, but must admit I use the time for my mental health.


Chzrllo answered...

There is no answer. Everyone is different. I have no real idea what stage my husband is in but I know it is somewhere towards the end. I am 86, he is 89. I am able to care for him, the house, the dog and cat and maybe an occasional game of golf. My son comes and sits for an hour or two when I golf. My husband denie s any problem, argues at the drop of a hat. I think he has great fear of losing "control." There is no answer - just do your best and live with it.


Bsummers answered...

I am so happy to find out I am not alone with the issues I am having with my 90 yo grandmother. She sleeps all day and hardly ever wakes up but she never wants to be a part of anything I am doing. She sits in her chair all day long watching CNN alone. I do try to sit with her for a little bit and I ask her if she needs anything every hour or so. I just feel I am not doing enough if she is only declining with her memory. Some days she is on top of everything others she is living in the past.


Answerisinu answered...

Hi. This information was so helpful. My motherinlaw had a fall on thursday and today she is sleeping all day. Which is very unusual for her. She has schiofrenia and dimentia. It's very unusual for her to sleep this much. Tomorrow we're taking her to the doctor. We took her right in to the emergency room when she fell. All checked out. Just her sleeping is strange.


Cosmoblivion answered...

Lewys bodies dementia is associated with longer sleeping. I am trying to find some medical/scientific links to share for you... but wanted to let you know, if you had not heard of that.


Cosmoblivion answered...

Okay, I tried to edit my previous answer but I am writing from the UK so there may be an issue with the website communicating to my browser. Here are two helpful resources regarding sleep issues in dementia: The first one describes the distinctions between Lewy bodies dementia and Alzheimers and how sleep disorders look in Lewy body disease. We thought my dad had Alzheimers initially but then it turned out to be Lewy bodies, a common occurrence because the various dementias mimic symptoms but also! we currently suspect that one can have several types of dementia at once :( http://catalog.ninds.nih.gov/pubstatic/13-7907/13-7907.pdf Lewy Body Dementia from the National Health Institute (NIH) The second is specific to Alzheimers but also reiterates that diagnosing the type of dementia is a changeable thing since symptoms of the types are the same, and again, some folks have more than one type of dementia. http://www.alz.org/alzwa/documents/alzwa_Resource_BC_FS_Sleep.pdf Fact Sheet About sleep changes in Alzheimers disease I hope this helps! The Lewy body pamphlet has a thorough table of contents na dmuch about dementia in general. The Fact Sheet is easy to read and addresses the sleep conditions seen in dementia. ~j


Trianta answered...

Thank goodness I've find you guys.. My mum has had dementia for four years and I use to say she never sleeps especially at night as her sundowners had got so bad our neighbours complained. She is still up all night or has disturbed sleep usually ranting about stolen documents, books, clothes, hasn't been fed (which she has) and as you can imagine this caused a lot of trouble with family and neighbours who have no idea what dementia is:((( now she sleeps all day and even when she wakes up to eat she quickly feels tired again and complains of headache and dizziness:(( we have taken her for tests and she is physically healthy and brain scans don't show anything serious except for dementia. This new emotion has had me very worried!! She is 86 and a very strong willed lady and every other way..


Soniam answered...

My mother will be 86yrs this April and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Vascular Dementia in 2011. She lived with us up until last November when following yet another fall we were offered a place in the local care home where she had been having occasional respite and thrice weekly daycare. at home we noticed that she had become increasingly sleepy during the day but up several times at night. This pattern hasn't changed in the care home despite more stimulation during the day. a month ago she developed a chest infection followed by heart failure and was admitted to hospital where she has been for 3 weeks. There is now a marked deterioration in her dementia. She doesn't speak, sleeps deeply most of the time and hardly eating anything. We feel quite definitely that the recent illness has fast forwarded the symptoms of her dementia. She was transferred to a nursing home for rehab and mobilisation yesterday so that she can return to the care home. However after visiting today she barely opened her eyes to see us, and we really aren't sure how much she understands. She doesn't seem to be able to communicate anything at all now and almost stares vacantly at you when you talk to her. The staff are wonderful but they've only just met her and have no idea what she was like 4-5 weeks ago, when she was walking with a zimmer frame, eating at the dining table with the other residents, getting herself to bed etc....her conditions seems to have declined rapidly in just a few weeks. We pray that this might be a temporary setback due to the illness, but are not feeling very positive. It's so heartbreaking to see your loved one disappearing right in front of you.


Gpgalatz answered...

My wife is 62 years old and was diagnosed five years ago with Alzheimer's disease. She has always slept more than me and would get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. About eight months ago this grew to be 12 to 14 hours a night. I worry that it may be medication induced but feel the disease plays the bigger role. She is tired most of the time. She goes to bed around 10:00 and doesn't get up until noon on the average day but she does not normally nap. I think the fact that she is a younger Alzheimer's person would make most comparisons difficult but thought that I would add my comment. Stay well.


Charlesl answered...

I have this problem times 2, my dad is 86 with CHF, diagnosed 10 years ago, My mom is 82 and diagnosed with mod dementia. I have them both in a assisted living facility, I have no help except for my wife and daughter. My wife and I still work, we can't retire because of the cost to keep them cared for. This is the most difficult time in my life caring for them. It's something everyday to deal with. I now know what it was like for my mom to raise 3 children all about 14 months apart while trying to work and care for us dealing with daycares. Reading up on all these sites does not make it easier. My Dr who also see's my mom and dad tells me to take it one day at time, he's about the same age has I am. I asked him if his parents were still alive, he said no he lost his parents years ago, so I said you know exactly what I'm going through. It may seem like I'm feeling sorry for myself, but I'm glad I can come to a place were I can read for some advice if anyone will listen.


A fellow caregiver answered...

My husband has Alzheimer's, he also sleeps a lot. Goes to bed around 9:30 or so! Wakes the next day around 11:00 or later. I keep reading different things, but no answer to there sleeping! Alzheimer's is difficult to understand!


Beach bird answered...

Hi ALL! WOW, this is a horrific disease. My mother is 84 and approaching the middle stages. It worries me too that she falls asleep frequently. It seems that each activity she does requires a little nap afterwards. The apathy is hard to deal with but she tells me she is not bored and she just doesn't have the motivation to do the things she used to. It is exhausting caring for her full time. If I didn't prepare meals she would forget to eat or eat sweets. She now is in a good routine which I have learned is very important and it is. Night time is the most difficult, she sees things sometimes, and is very confused. It is then time to go off to bed usually about 9 p.m. She insists on having the t.v. on all night so if she wakes up she does not feel alone and then falls back to sleep. She has done this for years, since my dad passed, so I figure it is best to not rock this boat. There are so many other stories I could go on about. It is good to join a support group, you quickly find out, as in this site, you are NOT alone. Reach out, take care of yourselves and get your rest. Does anyone have difficulty with siblings who just don't even clue into what is happening or ask how their parent is or if you need help. I find it so difficult to deal with. I am now chanting friends are family you choose!! Hang in there...I am braced for the future that will not be so bright. My grandmother had ALZ as did my aunt. I of course fear I will have it too. Find joy where you can, life throws you curve balls, just do your best. Hugs to all.


Ellie t answered...

So good reading about others who are caring for a love one with this dreaded disease I will take my husband to the doc for a look over for he sleeps a lot he is 94 and closes his eyes a lot even when eating. I am 90 so he keeps me busy and it is sometimes tiring but am learning to rest when he does thanks


T man answered...

I have a question, my wife had a major stroke four and a half years ago. She is paralyzed on the right side and can't talk. We can communicate somewhat, she let's us know when she wants something, just have to figure out what. She has been sleeping most of the time, all night and day, then she will be awake for 36 to 48 hours straight. When she is awake for the extended hours she gets mean and seems to see things. Of course since she can't talk we can't test her to determine if she HAS ALZ. Anyone else experiencing this?