Why do dementia patients sleep so much?

Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

If you have spent time with a loved one, friend, or other person suffering from dementia, you may have noticed alterations to their sleeping patterns. Perhaps they regularly nod off during the day or wake often in the night. Irregular sleeping habits are a common feature of the disease, especially in the later stages of dementia, and sufferers can spend a lot of time sleeping.

The National institute of ageing recommends seniors get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but studies show that dementia patients can sleep between 13 to 15 hours in a 24-hour period. [1]

This can seem troubling to caregivers and other family members, but is often not a cause for further concern, and rather a natural consequence of the disease. This article will explore some of the reasons dementia patients sleep so much.

Reasons why dementia patients may sleep more

Exhaustion due to progression of dementia

As time passes, dementia patients’ symptoms worsen, and the damage done to their brain becomes more widespread. They become frailer and lose more control over their faculties.

Everyday tasks like communicating with others, eating, and physical activity become exhausting. This heightened exhaustion can lead a person to sleep more during the day. [2]


Certain medications may lead to increased sleepiness such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antihistamines. [2]

Diet and Exercise

A lack of a balanced diet and exercise regime, due to deteriorating physical and cognitive functions, could contribute to increased tiredness in dementia patients. [3]

The lack of mobility and exhaustion resulting from their health condition may render a dementia patient unwilling to engage in physical activity, even when encouraged and aided.

Compensating for poor sleep at night

People with dementia often compensate for their poor sleeping habits at night by catnapping during the day to make up for lost sleep. [1] It’s a self-perpetuating sleep-wake cycle, with habitual napping throughout the day then causing poor sleep patterns at night.

Other sleep disorders

Sleeping disorders unrelated to dementia, such as sleep apnea – where a person’s breathing occasionally ceases during sleep, may cause a patient to sleep longer. [2]

How can you help a dementia patient with sleep problems?

Sleeping during the day can throw of someone’s body clock, causing sleep disturbances at night. Disrupted sleep, or lack of quality sleep, negatively impacts any person’s mental and physical abilities [1].

 Here are some steps you can take to help someone with dementia who has trouble sleeping:

  • Establish routines. Routines can enable a dementia patient to develop a sense of how their days are structured, which can feel comforting. Establish what soothes the person, such as bathing or reading, and incorporate these activities into a bedtime routine. Ensure they stay hydrated and eat regular meals. Structural implementations into a person’s care routine may prove pivotal in helping them get the rest they need. [3]
  • Calming environment. Ensuring the bedroom environment is as relaxed as possible can facilitate better sleep for dementia patients. Dimming the lights or playing music quietly can help. [3]
  • Seek medical assistance. Liaise with the person’s doctor about potential side effects of medication, alternative medical explanations, or general advice on other steps you could take to help.
  1. Do Dementia Patients Sleep a Lot? Dementia and Changes in Sleep Patterns. (2022, September 16). © 2007-2023 AgingCare All Rights Reserved. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/dementia-patients-sleeping-a-lot-477227.htm
  2. Is it typical for people with dementia to sleep a lot during the day? (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Society. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/is-it-typical-people-dementia-sleep-lot-during-day
  3. Naidoo, S. (2022, November 15). Why do people with dementia sleep so much. Livewell Estates | Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care. https://livewell.care/why-do-people-with-dementia-sleep-so-much/
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Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri is a medical writer with a non-profit sector background, committed to raising awareness about mental health.

Published: Jun 20th 2023, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Jun 20th 2023