5 Causes of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness.

There is some disagreement in the medical community as to whether or not Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) is a medical diagnosis in itself. However most agree that it is a debilitating and potentially dangerous symptom of several sleep conditions.

According to Dr J F Pagel University of Colorado Medical School it’s estimated that about 20% of Americans suffer from daytime sleepiness that affects their activities, which will make them more at risk of driving- or work-related accidents.

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Here we’ll look at 5 of the possible conditions that might cause it and what can be done about them.

1. Insomnia.

The most common cause of daytime sleepiness is not sleeping well or for long enough at night time and is one of the most common reasons for people being referred to a sleep clinic.

Insomnia can be caused by a number of things, including stress and anxiety, shift working, having a wakeful child/baby, pain, having an uncomfortable bed, depressionor having allergies that affect your sleep.

The important thing is to identify your cause and start treating it with or without professional help.

Even mild sleep deprivation has been shown to cause excessive daytime sleepiness. So you might be getting 6 or 7 of the recommended 8 hours of sleep because of a busy time at work/home etc but over a period of time this can cause your daytime performance to suffer.

2. Sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea happens when the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax and fall back, blocking the breathing passage when you sleep. This stops you breathing. The brain then detects a low oxygen level in the blood and wakes you up. This can happen 100s of time each night but you don’t remember the wakenings. However they affect your over all sleep and cause you to be sleepy during the day.

If your bed partner or other people in your household say that you snore loudly, or you wake in the night aware that you’re struggling for breath, you may well suffer from sleep apnea.

Treatment for sleep apnea includes CPAP machines that will keep the breathing passages open using a stream of air, surgery, weight loss (the condition is more common if you are overweight), or a special pillow in mild cases.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and look at www.sleepbetterlivebetter.net for more on sleep apnea.

3. Prescribed meds or drug abuse.

This is another of the most common reasons for daytime sleepiness. The list of prescribed meds that can cause sleepiness is long but some of the most common ones are:

  • Blood pressure meds in the beta-blocker family such as propanolol, or alpha-antagonists such as clonidine
  • Some epilepsy meds
  • Some antidepressants such as MAOIs and SSRIs
  • Some anti-nausea meds
  • Benzodiazepines such as diazepam, temazepam
  • Antihistamines
  • Any sleeping meds

Check the label on the packet of meds you’re taking or discuss them with your doctor. A reputable drug information site such as www.druglib.com will also give you information about the meds you’re taking.

Marijuana causes sleepiness and other ‘recreational’ drugs can cause excessive wakefulness and then a rebound sleepiness.

4. Narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is a rare condition where the sufferer experiences an unavoidable desire to sleep and will fall asleep during normal daytime activities such as eating, driving or working. It affects less than 1% of the population.

It is thought to be caused by when someone is born without, or for some other reason is missing some of the brain neurons that produce a chemical involved in controlling sleep and waking cycles.

Specialist help is needed in diagnosis and treatment.

5. Idiopathic hypersomnia.

If doctors have done their investigations, and despite good sleep hygiene (going to bed and getting up and regular times every day and avoiding naps), no drugs or other conditions that can be said to be causing the problem, a person may be diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia.

‘Idiopathic’ means ‘no known cause’ and ‘hypersomnia’ means ‘too much sleep’.

The treatment used is usually drugs that increase the levels of a person’s alertness during the day.

What to do now.

Whatever the possible cause of your excessive daytime sleepiness, talk to your doctor who may refer you for an overnight sleep study. This will monitor your brainwaves, blood pressure, heart and breathing rates as you sleep and may reveal what’s happening to you.

Keep a sleep diary and note your daily activities, stress levels, amount of sleep, and sleepiness (daytime and before bed).

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