Is drowsiness normal in middle-stage Alzheimer's?

5 answers | Last updated: Oct 11, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it normal that my mother who is 88 and is middle stage of Alzheimer's falls into a light sleep when she is eating, or looking at TV? She seems to be extremely tired and this has just developed in the past few weeks.

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Alzheimer's itself does not necessarily cause 'drowsiness'. Sometimes co-morbid diagnoses (like high blood pressure or diabetes) can contribute to a greater sense of lethargy. Medications can also impact on ones alertness as can lack of activity and exercise. Many Alzheimer patients have nocturnal disruptions so they lack a good night's sleep and then will doze off more during the day. Many seniors who have also suffered mini-strokes or major strokes might be extremely tired and doctors often consider drugs like ritalin if this 'drowsiness' affects their over-all functioning. For someone who is usually alert and awake, a change like 'drowsiness' could be a sign of illness (like urinary tract infection). Therefore, it is recommended you check with your mother's physician to rule out any acute and reversible condition.

Community Answers

Watching TV may make people sleepy depending on the program they are watching but falling asleep when eating is not normal. You need to check which medications is your mother taking and how is her sleep during the night. Many medications may lead to drowsiness if the dose is too high. If she does not get enough sleep during the night she may be very sleepy during the day. However, increased sleepiness and daytime napping is happening quite ofter in advanced dementia.

Grammieimissyou answered...

In my research it is visible that the brain slowly deteriorates through the life of dementia. So, why would it be unreasonable for random sleeping episodes to be a part of the misfiring in the brain due to losing brain cells? I would say it could be a part of dementia and not just unhealthy sleep cycles and medication side effects. My grandmother surely passed out whenever and wherever she felt the need; at all stages of AD. Now she is peacefully sleeping infinitely.

Emilypinaud answered...

My 82 year old mother will go 17 hours with no sleep! her medications would knock a horse out.She yells all night in fear poor thing.What can I do to reassure her she is safe from harm,and stop the halucinations.

Jim kimzey answered...

When my mother had middle-stage Alzheimer's disease, she became incredibly tired and sleepy much of the time. We figured out that one of her medications, Aricept, was making her sleepy. Since this was a once-a-day medicine, we quit giving it to her in the morning and started giving it before bedtime. This one little change made a huge difference in her energy level during the day and her quality of life.