While being tired occasionally isn’t really a big deal, persistence drowsiness can have serious effects on your health. It’s important to be aware of the signs of excessive daytime sleepiness and factors that may be causing it.
What are signs of excessive daytime sleepiness?
Signs of excessive daytime sleepiness include:
- Frequent yawning
- Heavy eyelids
- Powerful urge to doze off
While there are many causes, the most common are sleep deprivation or disorders, although medical and brain conditions may also be the culprit.
Sleepiness caused by sleep deprivation or disorders
Some of the common reasons for excessive daytime sleepiness include:
- Failure to prioritize sleep: Staying up late to watch TV or waking up early even though you haven’t gotten enough sleep can cause drowsiness that accumulates over time. Lack of sleep over an extended period can lead to insufficient sleep syndrome.
- Insomnia: Insomnia is a disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as you need or want. It can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is a breathing disorder where something that is blocking your air passage during the night disrupts your breathing and thus your sleep.
- Snoring: Snoring has often been linked to poor nighttime sleep quality due to frequent disruption in your sleep cycles.
- Restless leg syndrome: This is a condition that causes a strong urge to move one’s legs or other extremities, disrupting total sleep time and sleep quality.
- Poor sleep quality: Not getting enough sleep is not just about the amount of sleep but also the quality of sleep. People who don’t go through sleep cycles smoothly may not get enough deep sleep and may not wake up feeling refreshed even after sleeping for the recommended number of hours.
- Pain: Pain caused by arthritis, fibromyalgia, or herniated discs can complicate sleep and make a person drowsy during the day.
- Frequent nighttime urination: Also known as nocturia, frequent nighttime urination is when you need to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night to go pee.
Sleepiness caused by other medical and brain conditions
Medications, mental health disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, neurodevelopmental disorders, and other health problems can cause daytime drowsiness.
- Medications may include:
- Mental health disorders may include:
- Neurodegenerative diseases may include:
- Neurodevelopmental disorders may include:
- Other medical conditions may include:
Sleepiness caused by lifestyle
Other factors that may cause drowsiness include:
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Hypnotics (for Sleep)
Hypnotics are sleep medications used to treat different types of insomnia. There are a variety of hypnotic drugs, and they are grouped into five types. Benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines, selective melatonin agonists (these three drug types are classified as sedatives), antidepressants, and an orexin receptor agonist. Some hypnotics can be addictive and may cause withdrawal symptoms if discontinued abruptly.
The side effects of hypnotics depend upon the drug used, but they may include:
- Dry mouth
- Rebound insomnia
Other side effects may include:
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Upset stomach
- Abnormal dreams
Hypnotics may have serious side effects and adverse effects, for example:
- Abnormal thinking
- Suicidal thinking
- Sleep paralysis
- Sleep driving and other complex behavior
- Exfoliate dermatitis
Hypnotic drugs available over-the-counter (OTC) include diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and doxylamine (Unisom). Natural herbal supplements used for insomnia are melatonin and Valerian.
Do not drink alcohol while taking hypnotic drugs. Stimulants like caffeine or amphetamines reduce the effect of insomnia medications.
Your doctor or other health care professional will recommend the type of hypnotic drug for you depending upon the type of sleep problem you have, your current lifestyle habits, other medications you are taking, and any other medical problems you may have.
FDA. "Sleep Disorder (Sedative-Hypnotic) Drug Information." Updated: Jun 13, 2017.
Chawala, J, MD. "Insomnia Medication." Medscape. Updated: Aug 01, 2016.
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