Sleep Is a Sign of the Dying Process

We tend to forget that life is a terminal illness. We are born, we experience, and then we die. All of living is on the road to death. How is that for a downer?  

The thing is dying is a part of living. Like living, it has stages - a road to travel. The road from birth to death passes through infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age, and ends at death. This is the normal dying pattern. However, not everyone “plays by the rules” so death can occur anywhere along the life road. Disease can occur anywhere along the life road also.  

Then there is fast death. Fast death is just that: fast, unplanned, no warning, no pattern. Life just ends. No patterns or rules played.

Dying patterns are centered around food, sleep, and socialization. Assess those three areas and you can track the dying process.

In this blog I will focus on sleep. 

Part of the natural dying process from disease is a person begins sleeping more. Starting two to four months before death from disease occurs, a person begins taking an afternoon nap. This progresses to both morning and afternoon naps. Then to both naps plus sleeping in front of the TV in the evening. Before you know it the person is in bed all day, just doesn’t get out of bed, is asleep more than they are awake.  

In a person who is just old with no disease process, the sleep patterns are the same only instead of occurring over a period of months it slowly happens over a period of years. Remember dying can be from just being old. The body is wearing out and is slowly ceasing to function.

As family and caregivers we tend to push our loved one to be active, to get out of bed, to stay awake. Our belief, which is true in most of life, is if we don’t use our body, don’t exercise and stay active, we will become weaker and less able to function. This is not true for someone who has entered the dying process. We have to change our thinking, new rules apply.

Sleep becomes our friend. Our body is like a battery that is losing its charge. Sleep recharges our battery. It doesn’t fix the problem, but for a while it can allow the body to be a little more active. A nap before and after a planned activity may give a bit more energy to enjoy that activity. However, there will come a time in the dying process when the body is simply letting go of the need for being awake. It is letting go if its hold on this planet, of its need for the energy that sleep provides.

Something More... about Sleep Is a Sign of the Dying Process

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Margaret D

Thank you for sharing your knowledge in a way that is easy to understand. I treasure the information as we each walk or will walk this journey of grief and loss. I keep a few copies of your booklets to share with others when needed.

BK Books replied:
Thank you Margaret, for your kind words about my work. Blessings! Barbara


My husband had open heart surgery four years ago and is taking short morning and afternoon naps. I’m concerned.
BK Books replied:
Hi Maggie, make an appointment with his cardiologist and have a check up. With that information you’ll know what is occurring. Blessings to you both. Barbara


My mom has been experiencing these symptoms for more than a year. The symptoms described for 2-3 months before death have been happening for quite a long time. I don’t know what to think anymore…
BK Books replied:
Hi Mari, my first question; is dementia involved? Dementia doesn’t play by the rules so you can have the signs of approaching death for years. It isn’t until she is not eating that the rest of the signs of approaching death begin. If she is just old with no disease occurring she can have the signs of approaching death (2 -4 months before) for years. Blessings to you and your mom. Barbara

John Lodge

Barbara, I hang on every booklet you write. You are on target with what I have seen time-after-time.
Thank you,
BK Books replied:
Thank you John for those kind words. Blessings! Barbara

Marilyn Schild

Love “Gone from my Sight.” My sister recently died of cancer and my niece did not share her copy of this booklet until after my sister passed. I wish I had seen the book nine months before her passing but the contents beautifully describe the path to dying. Beautifully written. I encourage those caregivers of the dying to search on line for prayers that coincide with the stages of dying.

BK Books replied:
Hi Marilyn, I too am sorry your niece didn’t share Gone From My Sight *with you. It helps to know that what our special person is doing as they approach death is normal, that nothing pathological is happening. Have you read *My Friend, I Care? It is my booklet on grieving. You may find it helpful Blessings to you and your family. Barbara

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