If you constantly find yourself feeling like you want to fall asleep during the day, you might be experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. While it may not be an official sleep disorder, it is a problem that can throw a wrench into your day and make it even harder to fall asleep at night. In this guide, we explore daytime sleepiness, some of its causes, and what you can do to bring it to a halt.
What Is Excessive Sleepiness?
Excessive sleepiness might not quite be exactly what you think it is. Rather than feel like fatigue, excessive sleepiness is more about actual tiredness that you can’t seem to control. It reportedly affects around 18% of people and can be a sign of a deeper issue or underlying condition. Excessive daytime sleepiness itself isn’t actually a medical condition, but is usually caused by a medical condition or is a symptom of something larger.
What Causes Excessive Sleepiness?
Snoring Or Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a breathing condition where you continually stop breathing while you’re sleeping. This can lead to increased sleepiness because your body isn’t able to properly rest, as you’re being interrupted by your sleep apnea throughout the night. If you’re unsure whether or not you have sleep apnea, consider the other symptoms like excessive snoring and waking up with headaches.
Approaching Old Age
As you get older, your quality of sleep decreases, which means you might feel more tired more often. Studies have made the correlation between age and sleep patterns, and link it to natural changes in the body’s circadian rhythm cycles, potential sleep-disturbing medication, and other age-related factors.
One of the key symptoms of depression is trouble sleeping. It all connects back to your brain — if you’re feeling depressed, your brain will make sleeping difficult, thus making you extra tired during the day. If you find yourself struggling with excess sleepiness and feel you might be suffering from symptoms of depression, consider talking to your doctor about your concerns. They will help you figure out a plan, and may prescribe antidepressants to help rebalance your emotions.
Side Effects From Medication
While medication can certainly be helpful at times, a side effect of some medications is drowsiness. If you’ve started taking a new drug recently and find yourself more tired than normal, the medication could be the culprit. Anxiety medications, antihistamines, and antidepressants are common medications that come with this side effect.
RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome)
Restless leg syndrome is when you get pain or itching in your legs out of nowhere, which can be incredibly uncomfortable if you experience it while trying to fall asleep. This condition can make it much more difficult to fall asleep some nights, contributing to increased tiredness. If you think you’re struggling with RLS, we suggest you talk to your doctor who can discuss possible treatment.
Other Health Conditions
Narcolepsy can contribute to excessive sleepiness as well. With narcolepsy, your brain doesn’t understand how to regulate your sleep-wake cycles properly. While you might sleep fine during the night, you might still feel tired during the day and fall asleep uncontrollably. This is a very rare condition that you should speak to a doctor about if you think you may be experiencing it.
PTSD can also cause excessive sleepiness, as it’s another form of mental and emotional stress, causing the body to not be able to rest at night. This all culminates in a poor night of sleep and excessive sleepiness during the day.
How To Prevent Excess Daytime Sleepiness
The first and most important thing you can do if you’re experiencing excessive sleepiness is, like we mentioned before, to talk to your healthcare provider. This tiredness can be caused by any number of things and your doctor will be able to help you get to the bottom of it and hopefully solve it. You most likely won’t be able to find quality sleep until you’ve figured out why this is happening in the first place, and your doctor is the first step.
If you suspect that your sleepiness is caused by age, in particular, understand that there obviously isn’t a quick solve for it. No matter how you put it, age does increase your tiredness, so the best thing you can do for yourself is adjust your schedule to allow for more sleeping time. You need just as much sleep as an older adult as you do as a younger adult, so make sure you’re allocating enough time for this.
If your excessive daytime sleepiness is caused by or is part of a condition like depression, sleep apnea, or RLS, your first course of action should be speaking with your doctor. However, you can also try to identify what else is going on in your life that could be causing it.
- Did you recently start a new medication?
- Do you wake up with headaches?
- Do your emotions feel out of whack?
- Do you have pain in your legs while you’re prone?
All of these are a part of a larger problem. Try keeping a log of everything going on and note when you’re sleeping, if you’re waking up a lot, when you feel tired, etc. Take all of this with you when you speak to your doctor so that you can come up with a solution together, like changing your habits, considering drugs that keep you awake, or even investing in a new mattress.