You may notice that those living with Dementia, especially in the later stages, seem to spend a lot of time sleeping, but why is this?
We understand that it may seem out of the ordinary, even concerning, for the caregivers and the loved ones of those living with Dementia if a change in sleeping habits is seen, especially a marked increase in the amount an individual is sleeping but there could be an explanation…
As the Dementia progresses the damage to the brain increases and this can cause the person living with Dementia to sleep more, especially as the individual becomes more frail.
The damage to the brain, of a person living with Dementia, will make their usual daily activities much more of a task and more complex, making it more draining on the individual and causing them to sleep more, both during the day and at night.
Medication prescribed to those living with Dementia, to control and alleviate their symptoms, may also contribute to how someone living with Dementia sleeps and how drowsy they are feeling during the day. This again, may cause someone living with Dementia to sleep more.
It is not uncommon for those living with Dementia to increase the amount that they sleep during the day which leads them to being restless and unable to sleep during the night time and so although it may, at first instance, appear as though the individual is sleeping more, it may well be just that their routine, and the times that they sleep, have changed.
One common symptom of Dementia is disorientation to time and place. This can have a major impact on an individual’s sleep as when they are disorientated to time they may be unaware of whether it is day time or night time, when they initially wake and so get up and ready for the day in the early hours of the morning or during the night. This will, of course, impact the time that they are able to stay awake in the day.
Specific types of Dementia may cause specific symptoms that will affect the quality of an individual’s sleep, or even their ability to sleep at all. Symptoms may include hallucinations, breathing difficulties and restless legs, all of which can disturb an individual’s sleep or make getting to sleep extremely difficult.
As individual’s age, our quality of sleep declines and we have less deep sleep, which helps us to feel refreshed and rested and also keeps the brain healthy. Thus, we may find ourselves sleeping more to achieve that feeling of being refreshed and rested and this is no different for those living with Dementia.
It is, however, important to remember that where there is a sudden change in an individual’s sleeping pattern or behaviour, or something just doesn’t seem right, then you should always seek the opinion of a GP or healthcare professional to ensure that there is no underlying issue, such as an infection, that requires attention.