This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

For people juggling family, work, and a personal life, feeling exhausted may seem like it’s just par for the course. In fact, it’s estimated that 18 percent of adults suffer from feeling overly tired. While in many cases the condition can be remedied with a solid nap or a weekend of early bed times, when a lack of energy interferes with your productivity or causes forgetfulness or irritability regardless of how much you sleep, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

What Is Excessive Sleepiness?

Excessive sleepiness, or hypersomnia, occurs when sleepiness is severe enough to affect your everyday activities, like meeting deadlines at work or remembering to pick up milk on your way home. Symptoms of excessive sleepiness are different for different people, but the underlying commonality is that despite getting sufficient sleep, you are still tired. For example, you may sleep eight hours a night but struggle to stay awake during the day, or take regular naps during the day and still feel drowsy. You might even sleep 10 or 11 hours a night but wake up feeling groggy and disoriented. 

How Is It Diagnosed?

A doctor or sleep expert can determine whether you suffer from excessive sleepiness, and if you do, whether it’s caused by your sleep habits or a sleep disorder. It’s in your best interest to take your symptoms seriously and make an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss your situation. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for additional testing.

Your doctor will ask you for information about your sleep habits, such as:

  • How long you’ve felt excessively sleepy
  • How many hours you sleep on weeknights and weekend nights
  • Whether you wake up regularly during the night
  • If there have been any changes in your environment that could affect your sleep (such as a new baby or a new work schedule)

This information will help your doctor determine whether your excessive sleepiness is caused by behavior (such as your sleep habits) or a disorder (like sleep apnea). Your doctor may also recommend a polysomnography, or sleep test, to gain deeper insight into your condition. From there, you and your doctor can work together to build a treatment plan to help you regain energy and enjoy your life.