putting together puzzle of head. Dementia conceptc
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
February 9, 2024 ·  3 min read

This Common Daily Habit May be a Symptom of Dementia

Dementia symptoms manifest in different ways. While memory loss and having difficulty with routine tasks are the commonly recognized symptoms, there’s a much subtler indicator that has often gone overlooked – daytime napping. According to Dr. Rayaz Malik, a professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, frequent daytime napping could be a behaviour associated with dementia.1 This observation is also supported by the Alzheimer’s Society, saying individuals in the later stages of dementia often tend to feel sleepy.

Sleepy Dementia Symptoms

Recent studies have shed light on the relationship between napping and dementia. Research in older adults found that as Alzheimer’s progresses, the frequency and duration of daytime naps tend to increase.2 Additionally, excessive napping may be a risk factor for cognitive impairment, which can come before Alzheimer’s.

While it’s important to recognize excessive daytime napping as a potential symptom of dementia, it’s equally as important to understand why. Studies suggest that dementia can affect neurons designed to wake us up, which could change our sleep patterns.3 Brain exams have shown that individuals with Alzheimer’s have fewer wake-promoting neurons, meaning it is easier to fall asleep during the day as there are less neurons fighting the good wake-up fight. 

For individuals worried about dementia symptoms, managing sleep patterns becomes essential. Establishing a regular bedtime routine and limiting daytime naps can help regulate sleep. Additionally, incorporating physical activity into daily routines and reducing caffeine intake may contribute to better sleep quality.

Seeking Support

Excessive daytime napping isn’t something to ignore, especially among older adults. If someone is experiencing persistent daytime sleepiness for more than a couple of weeks, they should consult a healthcare professional. Addressing underlying causes early on can help in managing or even potentially slowing down cognitive decline.

Studies on the relationship between napping and dementia continue to provide valuable insights. A study led by UC San Francisco and Harvard Medical School found that excessive daytime napping can accelerate along with dementia. The two can build off each other, with other dementia symptoms growing, leading to more daytime naps leading to increased dementia, not a great cycle. It is incredibly important to monitor sleep patterns in case of potential cognitive decline.

Recognizing daytime napping as a potential symptom opens avenues for early intervention and treatment. Learning to understand the relationship between napping and dementia could lead to new ways of managing the condition.

Researchers are also exploring potential interventions like cognitive stimulation activities, physical exercise programs, and sleep hygiene education to improve cognitive function. By tackling multiple angles of lifestyle and health, there may be a better chance of maintaining cognitive function as people age.

Recognizing the symptoms of dementia is crucial for caregivers as well. Caregivers play a vital role in an individual’s well-being, and being able to see changes in sleep patterns can help them provide appropriate and timely support for any medical interventions.

Dementia Awareness and Education

Raising awareness about daytime napping and dementia symptoms is essential for public health initiatives. Educating the public about early signs of dementia can empower individuals to get medical advice and attention before the condition reaches later stages.

As research continues, studies tracking sleep patterns and cognitive function over time can provide insights into the progression of dementia and allow targeted interventions toward preserving cognitive health to take place.

While daytime naps can be part of the aging process, it could also be a subtle indicator of underlying cognitive decline or even dementia. By recognizing the link between the two, individuals, caregivers, and healthcare professionals can work together to support cognitive health and quality of life in older adults.

Read More: 10 Medications Linked to Dementia

Sources

  1. Common habit during day is little known symptom that could mean you have dementia.” Mirror. Tim Hanlon. January 26, 2024.
  2. The link between napping and Alzheimer’s.” Medical News Today. Mary West. August 16, 2023
  3. Extended Napping in Seniors May Signal Dementia.” UCSF. Suzanne Leigh. March 17, 2022.