Are bouts of deep sleep associated with end stage Alzheimer's disease?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 25, 2016
Maxxmissy asked...

My mother has Alzheimers (moderate stage) and has fallen into a really deep sleep three times within the past month which I cannot get a response from her to wake up. She just wants to stay asleep. Two hospital stays show no issues with her brain, such as bleeding. Is this part of the Alzheimers for the end stage?

Expert Answers

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

Increased sleepiness is very common in late stage Alzheimer's disease. However, if your mother is only in the moderate stage, there could be other causes of her deep sleep. She might have an absence-type epileptic seizures that is characterized by stopping all movements and looking asleep. New onset epileptic seizures may sometimes develop as dementia progresses. You might also want to check her medications, especially if she might be taking them herself.

Community Answers

Stu answered...

My Mom will look like she is sleeping. The nursing home used to call her "unresponsive" and send her to the hospital. They would do a bunch of tests, stop and change meds, keep her there for up to ten days and in the end she would go back on the same meds. After a few episodes of this we discovered she was really not "unresponsive". if you annoyed her she would grimace or push you away! But she would not move otherwise. She would not take her meds, go to a more comfortable chair or bed,... but if we left her alone, after a while she will "wake up" and act like nothing happened. We now say she is "playing opossum" and leave her be. It sure beats long hospital stays. I think accepting many of the idiosyncracies of this disease is important to surviving as a caregiver and a patient. So my theory is that sleeping may not always be sleeping!

Maxxmissy answered...

This is exactly what happens! The hospital stays are so hard. The last time, I left her alone only wiping her face with a cool cloth and sure enough after awhile she came around.