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Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Know the Probable Causes of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Is excessive daytime sleepiness just a sigh of fatigue or could it be indicative of something more deep-rooted and complex? Let's find out.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep. ~ Fran Lebowitz

..... and when you sleep excessively in the daytime, when activities and events are happening all around you, you lose out significantly on being a part of that din that, together, form the pulse of life! While dozing off at your workstation or during a college lecture once in a while is something that most of us have experience sometime of the other, a chronic condition of frequent and excessive daytime sleepiness may be the body's way of telling you that there's more than just an occasional lack of sound sleep at night. So what causes excessive drowsiness during the daytime that becomes so frequent that you almost begin expecting to feel sleepy around a specific time in the day? The following segments deal with answering this along with insights on how to manage this condition.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Causes

Apart from not getting enough sleep at night in terms of number of hours and quality, a lot of other psycho-physiological conditions can lead to feeling drowsy in the daytime, despite being in the midst of all kinds of action. Here's a list of such conditions that can lead to chronic EDS:-
  • Sleep disorders such as parasomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, etc., are some of the major reasons behind EDS. These conditions don't allow you to get sound, undisturbed sleep, no matter how many hours you spend in the sack, and your body tries to compensate for the lost opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate itself by attempting to go on stand-by mode during the daytime. That is when you suddenly start feeling all groggy, finding it difficult to concentrate on the activity at hand or pay any amount of attention to details.
  • A disruption of the circadian rhythm, what is colloquially known as the biological clock, can lead to a distorted sense of feeding and sleeping times. This can be caused as a result of jet lag, shift in time zones, shift in work timings, unhealthy habits such as staying up till late at night, etc.
  • Psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, etc., can lead to insomnia and loss of sleep at night, sometimes leading to a sedated state during the daytime due to sense of moral despair or hopelessness. This can cause the subject to feel physically and mentally inactive, to the extent of appearing limp and resigned.
  • Abnormalities in the endocrine functions, especially those having to do with the thyroid gland and related hormonal imbalances, can lead to EDS.
  • Physical conditions such as anemia, diseases of the vital organs such as the heart, kidney, etc., can leave the subject feeling weak and dispirited. Coupled with the side effects of medications taken for these conditions, a general feeling of drowsiness throughout the day is not uncommon.
  • Head injuries or any kind of damage to or malignant growths in and around the brain or central nervous system can also lead to EDS, which is more like a kind of partial loss of consciousness and awareness of one's surroundings, than mere drowsiness.
  • Other causes include unnecessary use of narcotics and abusing psychoactive drugs over long periods can lead to a distorted sleep-wake pattern. Also, the EDS condition can be genetic or hereditary too.
To conclude whether or not those occasional spells of diurnal drowsiness amount to EDS, one can use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to conduct an excessive daytime drowsiness test. This is a simple test that requires you to rank a few options regarding the pattern of your daytime drowsiness (in between what activities do you feel like dozing off the most, etc.) numerically from 0-3, and add up the total by the end of it. Any figure higher than 10 indicates that you may be suffering from the EDS syndrome.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Treatment

Before we discuss the methods of managing this condition and talk about excessive diurnal drowsiness medication, the reader must understand that EDS is not a disorder in itself. Rather, it is just a symptom or external manifestation of a deep-rooted medical condition. Diagnosis, treatment and management of that actual underlying condition is the only way to completely correct the EDS syndrome. Temporary management of sleepiness during daytime can include consumption of caffeinated beverages such as tea, black coffee, etc. Psychostimulant medications that improve mental alertness and induce wakefulness are also available, though prescription of a registered medical practitioner is mandatory for procurement of these drugs as they are not available over the counter.

It can be said in conclusion that each succeeding generation is seen to be suffering from more sleep related issues than its predecessors. The primary reason is physical as well as mental stress, and the sources are as diverse and numerous as the number of bacteria present in a single drop of water! When an unhealthy sleeping irregularity turns into a habit, and when this habit assumes the proportions of a medical case, is a pattern that is difficult to trace. However, the least you can do is stay alert to such irregularities, and take those frequent episodes of untimely drowsiness seriously.