Excessive daytime sleepiness can also be associated with:
- mood changes
If your sleepiness is ongoing and you’re experiencing symptoms like the ones above, then it’s time to see a doctor.
The best way to treat excessive sleepiness is to address its underlying cause. Often this means improving poor sleeping habits, like getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
It’s helpful to establish a bedtime for yourself and stick to it. You should also avoid caffeine and alcohol, and quit smoking if you smoke.
Also, staying active is always good for your health. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity each day could help you sleep better at night.
Some days you may feel tired because you haven’t been sleeping well. Once you’re able to get enough sleep, you usually feel better. But when sleep alone doesn’t fix your sleepiness and fatigue, it can indicate poor quality sleep or an underlying medical cause that needs to be addressed.
Three major sleep disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness are narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
Narcolepsy is a central nervous system disorder that causes excessivedaytime sleepiness, visual hallucinations, sleep paralysis, muscle weakness, and disturbed sleep at night.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder in which the air passage is blocked by the tissues of the throat and the roof of the mouth. This results in snoring and disturbed sleep. Apnea translates to “cessation of breathing.” This means that you stop breathing intermittently during sleep for at least 10 seconds at a time. This can occur up to hundreds of times per night.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an unexplained pain or crawling and other uncomfortable feelings in your legs. Symptoms often manifest during periods of restfulness, usually while trying to fall asleep. As a result, it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness.
Your doctor will evaluate you by carefully reviewing your sleep history and medical history for clues to an underlying sleep disorder or other explanation.
Before considering treatment for excessive sleepiness, you should first try to make some lifestyle changes:
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid watching TV, playing video games, and
using a laptop computer or smartphone before bed.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake
up at the same time each morning, including weekends and holidays.
- Work with your doctor to establish a healthy
exercise routine and nutrition plan. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic
exercise each day could help you sleep more soundly at night. Avoid alcohol
- Create a “relaxation routine” for yourself that
you do each night before bed. Try meditating, soaking in a hot bath, listening
to soothing music, or reading a book (don’t use your tablet or smartphone to
If your treatment is working, you’ll see improvements in your symptoms and you’ll feel rested. Regardless, make sure to follow-up closely with your doctor to make sure you’re on track.
Using energy drinks and coffee to manage your tiredness may help in the short term, but the sugar in these types of beverages can cause you to crash later on. They may also lead to dehydration. You should avoid these types of drinks and stick with water.
Medications for excessive sleepiness are meant to increase your level of wakefulness and alertness. However, you should still avoid things like driving or other dangerous activities until you know for sure that your medication is working.
Raj Dasgupta is currently a faculty member at the University of Southern California. He’s quadruple board-certified in internal medicine, pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. He’s the assistant program director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program and the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship. He’s an active clinical researcher and has been teaching all around the world for 16 years. His first book is part of a series called, “Medicine Morning Report: Beyond the Pearls.” Learn more on his website.