Excessive Sleepiness: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Excessive sleepiness is when you feel too drowsy or tired during the day. It is different from being low on energy. When you go through excessive sleepiness, it can interfere with your work, school, or day-to-day activities. The key to eradicating this condition is to understand the reason behind it. Several sleep-related problems must be diagnosed before evaluating the reason for excessive sleepiness. Read ahead to know more!
What Is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?
Any condition that prevents you from getting quality sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, where you feel too tired or sleepy in the morning. Daytime sleepiness can be one of the symptoms of a sleep disorder, with other signs such as snoring or kicking while you are asleep.
What Causes Excessive Sleepiness?
Usually, a sleep disorder can be the reason for your excessive daytime sleepiness. In most cases, your partner may notice the symptoms before you do. Take a look at the most common excessive sleepiness causes below.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition where you frequently stop and start breathing while asleep. This condition can disrupt your sleep and lead to excessive sleepiness. Sleep apnea can also put you at risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea are;
- Snoring too loudly
- Waking up gasping for air
- Problems with focus and attention
- Feeling irritated all the time
There are two types of sleep apnea, which lead to excessive sleepiness, and they are;
Obstructive sleep apnea: Here, the tissues in the back of the throat become relaxed and slightly block your airways as you sleep.
Central sleep apnea: Here, your brain is unable to send the correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing while you are asleep.
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is when you feel a severe urge to move your legs. RLS can occur when a sudden throbbing or itching sensation takes over while lying down, which only feels better once you move the legs.
In this condition, the brain cannot regulate the sleep-wake cycle as it must. When suffering from narcolepsy, you will wake up multiple times during the night and experience excessive daytime sleepiness, even during essential chores. People with narcolepsy may even fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.
Depression can lead to oversleeping or even insomnia. So, if it is the latter, you may experience excessive sleepiness in the morning.
Medication side effects
Some medications can lead to excessive sleepiness as a symptom. They include;
- Blood pressure medicines
- Medicines for nasal congestion, nausea, and vomiting
- Medicines for epilepsy
- Anxiety medicines
If that’s the case, always talk to your doctor before you stop them.
Sleep quality starts to decline as you age, and this begins in middle-aged adults. Also, the elderly spend more time in bed because of decreased sleep quality. They also tend to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night. And these reasons can lead to sudden excessive sleepiness in the elderly.
If you are enjoying quality sleep every night but still experiencing excessive sleepiness in the daytime, you may be suffering from idiopathic hypersomnia. It is a chronic neurological sleep disorder where you experience difficulty getting out of bed. The reason for this is still unknown.
Symptoms of Excessive Sleepiness
Excessive sleepiness is a symptom of a sleep disorder or an underlying health condition. However, if you have excessive sleepiness, you may also notice;
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Mental fog
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Feeling sluggish
- Difficulty getting in and out of bed
- Feeling unmotivated
- Attention lapses
- Loss of appetite
- Unable to remember events of the day
- Poor performance at work or school
Effects of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Excessive daytime sleepiness can be dangerous in adults and can also hamper development in children. Some of the effects of excessive daytime sleepiness are;
- Risks of accidents
- Poor performance
- Your quality of life may decrease
- You are unable to regulate your mood or emotions
- You face problems with social interactions or even in your relationships
- It may lead to cognitive impairment and memory loss
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
If you have sleep apnea, excessive daytime sleepiness can be one of the symptoms. Some of the excessive daytime sleepiness treatment due to sleep apnea includes;
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Here, a CPAP machine is used to optimise the air pressure with the help of a mask while you are asleep.
Armodafinil (Nuvigil) and modafinil (Provigil): They are drugs known to stimulate specific brain activity involved in wakefulness. It is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Solriamfetol (Sunosi): It is a prescription medication that helps improve wakefulness in adults and is prescribed by doctors to treat obstructive sleep apnea and excessive sleepiness.
Oral appliance therapy: Here, dental devices or oral mandibular advancement device is used to ensure the tongue doesn’t block the throat or helps move the lower jaw slightly.
Weight loss: When you are overweight, you develop extra tissue at the back of the throat, which can block the throat. Therefore, your doctor may suggest weight loss as a treatment for obesity to help combat sleep apnea.
Surgery: If all other treatment options fail, your doctor may suggest surgery. Here, the extra tissue causing the blockage is removed. However, this is usually the last option.
Narcolepsy and Extreme Sleepiness
As mentioned earlier, narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where you go through overwhelming sleepiness during the daytime and face sudden sleep attacks. People with this condition can fall asleep anywhere or anytime without any warning. In most cases, excessive sleepiness is the first sign of narcolepsy, making it difficult to concentrate, focus, and function properly. Some of the other symptoms include;
- Sudden loss of muscle tone
- Sleep paralysis
- Changes in REM sleep
While there is no cure for this condition, the symptoms can be managed with medication and treatments.
When to Talk To Your Doctor
You must speak with your doctor if excessive sleepiness affects your daily life and you are always fatigued. If you think you have a sleep disorder, note all the other symptoms you may be facing as your doctor may recommend a meeting with a sleep therapist. After running a diagnosis, your doctor will steer you toward the right treatment plan.
Sleep is vital for good health. Therefore, don’t be okay with feeling tired or low on energy every day. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what’s causing excessive sleepiness. With the right treatment plan, you will feel better and more energetic.
When should I be concerned about excessive sleepiness?
If this excessive sleepiness has become a recurrent problem affecting your everyday life, you must be concerned about it and visit your doctor.
Is excessive sleepiness a symptom?
Yes, excessive sleepiness can be a symptom of a sleep disorder or an underlying medical condition.
How do I fix excessive sleepiness?
You must visit a doctor for the right treatment as per the condition because excessive sleepiness can be a symptom rather than a condition in itself.
Why do I want to sleep all the time and have no energy?
It can be because of a sleep disorder. However, ensure you rectify your routine and maintain a sleep consistency where you go to bed and wake up simultaneously. Even if you always feel sleepy, it is important to visit your doctor.
Why do I feel sleepy even after sleeping for 8 hours?
It can be because you woke up multiple times at night or have a sleep disorder you are unaware of or you may need an extra hour of sleep because your sleep needs are different.
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