According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently over six million people living with dementia in the United States and 900,000 in the United Kingdom.
Some early signs of dementia include difficulty concentrating, mood changes, confusion, and memory loss. However, one doctor who spoke to The Express highlighted a hidden symptom that can be a significant sign.
Although there isn’t a cure for dementia, early detection can ensure the condition is managed, and you will be able to access help.
The ‘hidden’ dementia sign
Professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in Qatar, Dr. Rayaz Malik, warned that taking naps throughout the day may be a sign of dementia, saying, “Taking frequent daytime naps is also a notable behavior associated with certain conditions, including dementia, and losing interest in friends and family is a sign that may indicate dementia.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK backs Malik’s statement. Head of Policy from Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr. Susan Mitchell, said, “Unusual sleep patterns are common for people with dementia, but research suggests that sleep changes could be apparent long before any symptoms like memory loss start to show.”
According to research, it appears to apply only to older individuals. In a kind of paradox, scientists in the United States have suggested that those who take naps more frequently when they get older are increasingly likely to get dementia. Still, those who have dementia are more likely to nap.
How long should we nap?
Experts say a healthy nap is usually around 15-45 minutes. However, the NHS urges that you speak to your physician as it could be a sign of something more serious.
The Alzheimer’s Society agrees with Dr. Malik and says people in the later stages of dementia tend to feel sleepy.
“It is quite common for a person with dementia, especially in the later stages, to spend a lot of their time sleeping — both during the day or night,” explained the charity.
“This can sometimes be distressing for the person’s family and friends, as they may worry something is wrong. Sleeping more and more is a common feature of later-stage dementia. As the disease progresses, the damage to a person’s brain becomes more extensive, and they gradually become weaker and frailer over time.”
In general, sleep problems are common among people with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Society lists these as:
- Becoming disorientated in the dark if the person wakes up to use the toilet.
- Sleeping during the day and being restless and awake during the night.
- Staying awake longer and waking up more often during the night.
- Getting up in the early hours and thinking it’s time to go to work and it’s daytime (time disorientation).
- Being unable to tell the difference between day and night.
“Nobody completely understands why dementia affects sleeping patterns,” says the society. “For some people, it may be that their internal ‘biological clock,’ which judges what time it is, becomes damaged, so the person starts to feel sleepy at the wrong time of day. Other parts of the brain control whether or not we stay awake, and these may also not work properly if they become damaged.”
Dr. Malik shared other signs of dementia to look out for:
- Cognitive impairment may lead to difficulty keeping track of the day of the week, month, or even year.
- Short-term memory loss.
- Challenges with routine tasks, including driving to familiar places.
- Spatial and vision awareness.
- Naming objects becomes challenging.
- Social interactions can decline.
- Changes in mood, including depression and over-forgetfulness.
Malik added, “The best thing is to speak to a doctor for them to be evaluated with a short screening test to evaluate memory.”