Do you notice yourself feeling tired all the time, or sometimes falling asleep during the daytime when you’d prefer to be awake? Excessive daytime sleepiness, also called drowsiness, can majorly interfere with your life. When you feel excessively sleepy, you might doze off at inappropriate times. For example, you could find yourself falling asleep during a work meeting or while driving. As a result, excessive sleepiness can create personal problems or even become dangerous.
Excessive sleepiness is generally considered a symptom or side effect rather than a primary disorder. Most people who have excessive sleepiness also have an underlying issue causing their drowsiness, even if they aren’t aware of it. Pinpointing the cause of one’s excessive sleepiness is the first step toward overcoming it.
Although excessive sleepiness overlaps with fatigue, it is a distinctly different symptom. When a person experiences excessive sleepiness, they tend to nod off or fall asleep when they want to be awake. When a person experiences fatigue, they often feel tired but do not usually fall asleep when they want to be awake.
Excessive sleepiness is often referred to as excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, by physicians and sleep specialists. To eliminate or reduce your EDS, you must first figure out why you are experiencing it.
If you experience excessive sleepiness, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why am I so sleepy during the day?” There is no single, universal answer to that question because different people experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) for various reasons.
Research shows people experience EDS as a result of a wide variety of underlying causes, such as:
If you don’t have health or psychiatric problems that could be causing your EDS, consider exploring the possibility of a sleep disorder. Since poor sleep causes sleepiness, EDS is a symptom of multiple sleep disorders.
Many sleep disorders commonly cause EDS. Have you found yourself wondering, “Why am I so tired all the time?” If so, consider seeing a sleep specialist to determine if you have a sleep disorder. Talking to your doctor about your symptoms is the best way to start the process of understanding your personal causes of sleepiness, whether or not a sleep disorder is a factor.
People with the following sleep disorders commonly experience EDS:
Of the many sleep disorders that can cause EDS, only two present primarily as excessive sleepiness: narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia. That said, sometimes a person isn’t aware of their other symptoms, so you can’t assume you have a specific sleep disorder because you believe you experience excessive sleepiness alone.
For example, a person with obstructive sleep apnea might not realize they stop breathing during the night, and someone with periodic limb movement disorder might not realize they often twitch while asleep. You may need a professional to identify the cause of your excessive sleepiness.
Learning the cause of your excessive sleepiness is essential because of the significant toll excessive sleepiness can take on your life. Excessive sleepiness in adolescents can negatively impact their school performance, personal relationships, overall health, and driving ability. In adults, excessive sleepiness can greatly affect their work, leading to lower productivity, more absent days, and even an increased risk of on-the-job accidents.
If you’re experiencing excessive sleepiness, tell your doctor. They should work with you to determine the cause and identify appropriate treatments. To diagnose underlying problems, your doctor might:
Depending on what comes out of your examination, your doctor will likely recommend one of the following treatments for EDS: