Does Extreme Sleepiness Indicate Dementia?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. There are many symptoms associated with dementia-related conditions, one of which is excessive fatigue. If you provide care for an aging loved one, you may wonder if noticing an uptick in excessive sleepiness indicates dementia. Here’s what you need to know.


Daytime Sleepiness Is More Common with Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Excessive daytime sleepiness in seniors can have many different causes, from medication issues to undiagnosed depression and anxiety. However, it may become a concern if your loved one normally gets a good night’s sleep and still ends up being excessively fatigued during the day. This is more likely to be an indication of what’s termed dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) than Alzheimer’s disease.

Mayo Clinic researchers made this determination by doing a comparison study between people with Alzheimer’s and DLB. In general, sleeping more often is associated with dementia because changes in the brain caused by conditions of this nature affect the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) and temporal awareness.

If your senior loved one needs professional dementia care, Pearland caregivers are available around the clock to provide the high-quality care he or she needs. Our dementia caregivers can help your loved one stay mentally engaged and delay the progression of the disease.


Sleep Is a (Possible) Risk Factor

According to a study published in the journal Sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness that includes periodic napping may be a risk factor for dementia. The reason for this determination is because of a link between daytime fatigue and an accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers based their findings, in part, on results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, which was a large-scale study of thousands of older individuals. In addition to being asked about their sleep habits and instances of daytime sleepiness and napping, the participants also received brain scans to look for the type of plaque buildup associated with dementia. However, it’s not clear if poor sleep habits contribute to the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques or if these plaques actually cause excessive sleepiness.

Maintaining good sleep hygiene does more than just reduce the risk of dementia. It can also help aging adults maintain their overall health. If you have a senior loved one who needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Assisting Hands Home Care, a leading provider of home care Pearland families can trust. Our caregivers help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and we offer mentally stimulating activities that can boost cognitive health and delay the onset of dementia. 


What to Do if Your Loved One Is Excessively Sleepy

As mentioned above, simply being excessively sleepy doesn’t mean your loved one has dementia. For this reason, it’s important to have your loved one evaluated by a doctor. This process usually involves:

  • Checking for signs of obstructive sleep apnea
  • Reviewing medications to see if one or more prescriptions being taken for other conditions may be affecting sleep habits
  • Performing tests to look for undiagnosed conditions that may be contributing to fatigue


An assessment of mood, memory, and other related cognitive functions may be done as well to look for possible signs of dementia. If no other possible indications of dementia are found, your loved one may be advised to take steps to minimize daytime sleepiness. Common recommendations include:

  • Planning activities throughout the day, since boredom is sometimes a reason for excessive sleepiness
  • Ensuring your loved one’s sleeping area is quiet and comfortable
  • Encouraging relaxing activities shortly before bedtime, such as reading or deep breathing exercises
  • Reminding your loved one to be consistent with his or her sleep schedule to avoid circadian rhythm disruptions

If your loved one needs help at home while managing the challenges of dementia or another serious issue, consider hiring a professional caregiver. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to address if their families opt for professional home care service. You can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep your loved one safe and comfortable while aging in place. Assisting Hands Home Care can be your trusted partner when your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging. Call us today to learn about our high-quality in-home care services.