Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Drowsiness, Staring May Signal Alzheimer’s

Study: Staring Off Into Space, Drowsiness, Other Mental Lapses May Be Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 19, 2010 -- Drowsiness, staring off into space, or losing your train of thought may be early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people with at least three different symptoms of mental lapses like these were 4.6 times more likely to have dementia than people without such episodes. In addition, people with mental lapses tended to have more severe Alzheimer’s symptoms and perform worse on memory and thinking tests.

"If you have these lapses, they don't by themselves mean that you have Alzheimer's," researcher James Galvin, MD, a Washington University neurologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, says in a news release. "Such lapses do occur in healthy older adults. But our results suggest that they are something your doctor needs to consider if he or she is evaluating you for problems with thinking and memory."

Previous studies have linked mental lapses with another type of dementia known as dementia with Lewy bodies, but their association with Alzheimer’s disease has been unknown.

Lewy body dementia causes clumps of proteins known as Lewy bodies to form in neurons and is the most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It can overlap with Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease.

New Alzheimer’s Symptoms?

In the study, published in Neurology, researchers evaluated 511 older adults (average age 78) for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. They also interviewed participants and a family member for signs of mental lapses.

Researchers found that 12% of the participants met the criteria for having mental lapses by having at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling drowsy or lethargic all the time or several times per day despite getting enough sleep the night before
  • Sleeping two or more hours before 7 p.m.
  • Having times when the person’s flow of ideas seems disorganized, unclear, or not logical
  • Staring into space for long periods

The study showed that people with three or four symptoms of mental lapses were nearly 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression