Between 10 and 20 percent of the American population suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness, and new research reveals that this condition is on the rise. According to the 2020 Sleep in America Poll, the average number of days per week that Americans feel drowsy has a substantial impact on their mood and physical health.
Excessive daytime sleepiness should be taken seriously, even if it is not a problem in and of itself. It’s possible that your body is attempting to notify you that you’re not getting enough sleep or that you have a sleep issue. Detecting the symptoms of excessive daytime drowsiness is critical if you’re going to find the root of the problem and fix it.
What Is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?
Having a hard time staying awake or alert during the day is considered excessive daytime drowsiness. Driving or working at a desk all day might intensify the effects of tiredness. A little tiredness on occasion is to be expected; however, excessive daytime sleepiness is when this occurs virtually daily for at least three months in a row.
Due to the similarity between exhaustion and sleepiness (a lack of energy and staying awake for a lengthy period of time), it is simple to mix the two. People who suffer from fatigue may have trouble falling asleep, despite the fact that they are exhausted and sluggish. It’s also conceivable to be both tired and sleepy at the same time.
Restorative sleep is essential for memory consolidation, immune system restoration, and other critical functions. As a result, if you don’t get enough sleep, you may have a wide range of symptoms that you don’t immediately associate with poor sleep.
Oversleeping is possible even when you aren’t aware of it. The following symptoms may indicate excessive tiredness.
- It’s difficult to stay awake.
- Angry thoughts and feelings
- Memory difficulties
- It’s difficult for me to stay focused.
- Inability to retain fresh ideas
- Inability to make a decision
- Reaction times are slower.
- Taking a Chance
Consequences of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Being tired can have a significant impact on one’s health and productivity on a daily basis. Consequences of daytime sleepiness include:
- Accidents in the workplace and on the road are becoming more common.
- Reduced output at work or in the classroom
- a lower standard of living
- Mood and emotional control issues
- Relationship and social issues
Young individuals, shift workers, medical professionals, and persons who frequently drive may be particularly vulnerable to the dangers of excessive drowsiness.
Sleep deprivation has been related to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses over time. Children’s daytime sleepiness may have an impact on their development, while daytime sleepiness in older individuals raises their risk of falling and may contribute to cognitive decline, memory loss, and an earlier death.
Causes of Excessive Sleepiness
Excessive daytime sleepiness can be the result of a variety of factors. As a result of long hours at work, an erratic schedule or insomnia, chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most common causes.
The quality or quantity of your sleep can have a significant impact on your level of daytime drowsiness. Disrupting the natural flow of sleep stages, such as getting up numerous times a night to use the bathroom, may lower the amount of slow-wave sleep. Smoking, a lack of exercise, and other lifestyle behaviors can also affect sleep quality and create daytime sleepiness, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Excessive daytime sleepiness may be a sign of a more serious sleep disorder. Symptoms of an underlying health problem or sleep disturbance may be present in these circumstances.
Fragmented sleep is common in a variety of sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder. Patients may not be aware they have these disorders until they see a sleep expert, but they can induce micro-awakenings that interrupt sleep.
In some sleep-wake disorders, the brain’s sleep-wake cycle-regulating processes are directly affected. Narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia are hypothesized to have an effect on the hormones that promote wakefulness, resulting in daytime sleepiness.
Circadian rhythm abnormalities, on the other hand, cause a discrepancy between a person’s body clock and the hours in which they are required to be awake. Both insomnia and excessive sleepiness can result from a mismatch between the brain and the body’s internal clocks.
Other Health Conditions
Daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of various medical problems and mental health issues. Depressive and anxiety disorders are common, as are schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Other common causes include lupus, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, obesity, and hypothyroidism.
It’s common for health ailments and sleep issues to have an impact on one other. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you could be at risk for developing conditions like Parkinson’s disease in the future. The tendency to be sleepy during the day may have a hereditary component, according to new research.
Medical treatments may also cause daytime sleepiness as a side effect, just like alcohol or opioids.
Diagnosis of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Fatigue, which the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) defines as “feelings of low energy and the need to relax but not necessarily sleep,” can be mistaken for excessive daytime sleepiness. When it comes to “normal activities,” even those you once enjoyed, depression and anxiety might be mistaken for each other, the National Science Foundation (NSF) says.
To treat sleep apnea, your first stop should be your health care physician, but you may need an evaluation from a sleep expert to adequately identify the root cause and discuss treatment options, says Kapur. If you’re experiencing extreme daytime sleepiness, your doctor may be able to find the source of your problem simply by obtaining a thorough “sleep history” and completing a physical exam, according to Kapur. A standardized questionnaire called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) may be used to gather information during a history-taking session. It assesses, among other things, your level of daytime sleepiness.
You may be advised to conduct an overnight sleep study at home by your doctor if the results of your physical examination suggest that you may be suffering from sleep apnea. A person’s heart rate, blood oxygen level, and breathing patterns are routinely measured during these examinations.
A sleep expert may propose that you do a polysomnography, or a thorough sleep study, in a laboratory based on the results of your assessment (and, if you perform one, your home sleep test). Sleep studies are non-invasive nightly exams that allow doctors to observe you in detail while you sleep (keeping track of things such as your stage of sleep, your airflow, oxygen levels, heart rhythm, and limb movements). Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (REMBD), Insomnia, and Sleepwalking are among the sleep disorders that these tests are used to identify by sleep specialists.
Your sleep specialist may offer the multiple sleep latency test if they feel that narcolepsy is to blame for your insomnia (MSLT). According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the MSLT measures how quickly you fall asleep during the day in a quiet setting.
During the MSLT, there are five two-hour gaps between prescribed naps. You’ll try to go off to sleep as you lay in bed between naps. Tests evaluate how long it takes you to fall asleep once all the lights are turned off Excessive sleepiness is defined by Kapur as falling asleep within eight minutes. Afterwards, we’ll need to figure out why this is happening. If you don’t fix the problem of excessive sleepiness, it can lead to major health concerns.”
Working with your doctor to identify the proper treatment and make changes can help you reduce your excessive daytime drowsiness and achieve better sleep, better daily performance, and a more rested, healthier, and safer you.
When to Talk To Your Doctor
In the event that excessive daytime sleepiness is interfering with your daily activities or you suspect it may be a symptom of a more serious health condition, it is recommended that you seek medical attention.
In order to determine the cause of your tiredness, your doctor will conduct tests and inquire about your sleep patterns. Your sleeping companion may be asked if you snore, gasp, or shift your legs in the middle of the night. A sleep specialist may be called in if they feel that you have a sleep disorder and want to do additional tests.
According to the underlying cause of daytime sleepiness, there are several treatment options available. To get you started, your doctor will likely offer some sleep hygiene tips and encourage you to get more shuteye. They will work with you to build a treatment plan for any underlying issues that need to be addressed as well as to make adjustments to the drugs you are already taking.
How is excessive sleepiness treated?
Depending on the reason of excessive sleepiness, there are a variety of therapy options.
Obstructive sleep apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a frequent treatment (CPAP). A little bedside machine uses a flexible hose to provide air to a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
Newer CPAP machines come with smaller, more comfortable masks than their predecessors. CPAP is the most effective treatment for sleep apnea, despite some patients’ complaints that it is too loud or uncomfortable. If you have OSA, your doctor will likely recommend it as your first line of defense.
Restless legs syndrome
Changing one’s way of life may be able to help manage RLS in some cases. Before going to sleep, try giving your legs a massage or taking a warm bath. RLS and sleeplessness can both be alleviated by getting some exercise first thing in the morning.
If your iron levels appear to be low, your doctor may recommend iron supplements. RLS symptoms can be treated using prescription drugs. If so, be careful to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any possible side effects.
Symptoms of narcolepsy can be alleviated by making some lifestyle changes. Short, timed naps may be beneficial. Maintaining a consistent sleep-wake pattern is also a good habit. Another useful hint is to
- being physically active on a regular basis
- Prior to going to bed, stay away from caffeine and alcoholic beverages.
- Smoking cessation
- winding down before turning in for the night
All of these items can help you get to sleep and stay asleep at night better. It’s possible that this will lessen daytime drowsiness.
Therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications can all be used to treat depression. Not everyone needs antidepressant medication. Temporary use may be required if your doctor prescribes it.
Talk therapy and lifestyle modifications, such as exercising more, limiting alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress, may help alleviate depression.
People with narcolepsy and insomnia can benefit from the same lifestyle adjustments that can help others with age-related sleep issues. Talk to your doctor if lifestyle modifications alone aren’t enough to help you. They can prescribe medication to help you get a better night’s rest.
Treatments for idiopathic hypersomnia are symptomatic, as the cause is unknown. Stimulants, dietary or lifestyle modifications may be utilized to help treat the condition.
A good night’s sleep is essential to a healthy body and mind. Identifying and treating the underlying reason of your excessive sleepiness will help you feel more awake and focused during the day.
If your doctor doesn’t inquire about your sleep habits, bring up your fatigue during the day and ask for advice on how to combat it. Avoid putting up with exhaustion when you could be suffering from something treatable.
You can use the Healthline FindCare feature to find a primary care doctor in your region if you don’t already have one.
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