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Dementia and Excessive Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be a problem for many folks, especially the senior population. There are also links between diseases like with conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia and sleepiness as well. One common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness is related to inadequate or fragmented nighttime sleep.

How to Improve Sleep Quality

If you are able to identify the issues preventing adequate nighttime sleep, eliminate them to alleviate excessive daytime sleepiness. Barring that, here are some non-drug treatments tips to help your loved one stay active throughout the day and prepare them to increase their ability to get a full sleep at night, hopefully without interruption:

  • Participate in activities that may be helpful in providing stimulation to prevent daytime dozing.
  • Get physical exercise appropriate to your level of functioning, which may also promote daytime wakefulness.
  • Avoid sedentary activities during the day.
  • Get exposure to natural light.

In addition to the tips above to get a full night’s sleep, the following are suggestions to improve your loved one’s sleep routine:3

  • Establish good sleep hygiene, including a set bedtime and wake-up time.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the afternoon and night.
  • Limiting television viewing during periods of wakefulness, and not viewing in bed
  • Create a relaxation ritual before you go to bed.

Do you wonder if dementia and sleepiness are connected?

Excessive sleepiness can also be a resulting condition of Alzheimer’s disease and a number of other dementias.

Daytime napping and “sundowning” can be serious issues for those with dementia. As sleep and the quality of rest obtained can have a large impact on both physical health and quality of life, sleep issues may negatively affect every aspect of an individual’s life.

People with dementia, especially those in later stages, may spend a lot of time sleeping. Although the reasons why dementia affects sleeping patterns are not thoroughly understood, Alzheimer’s Society states that as the disease progresses, the damage to a person’s brain becomes more extensive and they gradually become weaker over time. This makes doing even tasks that we consider simple, like communicating and eating, tiring to the person with dementia.1 As a result, they will sleep more to recuperate.

Parkinson’s Disease and Sleep Disorders

Excessive sleepiness and other sleep disorders are also prevalent with those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Symptoms may also include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and REM sleep behavior disorder. 2

Some Medication can Cause Sleepiness

Some medications contribute to sleepiness as well. The tips listed above may help mitigate the issue, even if there is also a pharmacological element involved as medicine prescribed may contribute to sleep disruption issues. Be sure to understand the side effects of their medications.

Consult Healthcare Professional about your Loved One’s Dementia and Sleepiness

If the person doesn’t appear well in other ways, you may want to consider consulting with your loved one’s healthcare professional to rule out an infection or other condition that could be affected their sleep. You may also want to have a discussion if you are concerned about any of the medicines. In addition to careful consultation with your doctor concerning sleep disruptions, other medical issues, and drug interactions, there are a number of non-medicinal approaches to improving sleep habits and minimizing sleep disrupting conditions.

Important ones to keep in mind among the recommendations for better sleep habits is the discouragement of daytime napping and the encouragement of participating in more activities during the day. A Mind to Care’s Game & Activity System is one way to encourage cognitively stimulating activities for those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.


1 Alzheimers.org
2 National Institute of Health | National Library of Medicine
3 Parkinson Foundation