My Experience with Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)
EDS is Often not Recognized Because it's a Chronic Issue
Excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, can be a debilitating illness for many people. In fact, it's signs and symptoms often go unnoticed because most people who have it are accustomed to feeling sleepy during the day and therefore resign to the fact it's a part of life (www.medscape.org). Individuals may tend to adjust their daily activities and accommodate for the times when they become sleepy. For example, they may stop reading books because they can't make it past the first couple of pages without becoming drowsy; they might quit watching television during the day and only watch right before bed due to their tendency to drift off; and may avoid driving on long or even short trips in the car by themselves for fear of wrecking. Avoiding certain situations during the day for fear of becoming sleepy is a real issue, let alone experiencing this malady and either ignoring or just accepting it. Even more astounding is the fact that most people living with EDS don't mention this problem to their doctor because it's rarely the presenting problem (www.medscape.org) and is discovered only through assessment. EDS can affect a person's social life, employment, relationships, and basically all facets of their lives and can be a dangerous inconvenience.
Falling Asleep During Meetings is Extremely Embarrassing!
I've had EDS since a young adult and it's an embarrassing condition that affects all aspects of my life. I first noticed something was "different" when I was in my mid-twenties while attending meetings at work. During these meetings, I would become so drowsy and sleepy, endlessly fighting the urge to shut my eyes for fear that I wouldn't seem interested, and mainly because I didn't want to get in trouble with my boss for "sleeping on the job". I appeared drunk and my eyes would cross again and again, and I would try so hard to keep them pried open. Putting my face down didn't help, and neither did looking around the room in the hopes I would become charged with a spurt of energy from seeing my fellow employees listening intently to that meeting. After about fifteen minutes of this, I couldn't stand it any longer- I would get up and excuse myself to the restroom to splash water on my face. And after sitting back down, it would only take about five minutes and I was right back to where I was before. This was the initial sign something wasn't quite right and at the time, had no idea what was happening. I just assumed I wasn't getting enough sleep; however, I was sleeping 7-8 hours a night and it just didn't make sense. And after a few years, I began to get intensely sleepy during my drive home no matter if I was driving or not. And then it began to spill over into my reading (which I must say was devastating, to say the least), and finally took it's hold over me while watching TV and surfing the internet. So as you can see, there's not much I can do without that damn sleepy feeling creeping up on me.
Factors and Treatment
In recent years, I've accepted the daily symptoms of EDS even though I take medication for Adult ADD, which theoretically helps to wake me up. Perhaps adult ADD is linked to EDS considering the symptoms of both are very similar? What's more, statistics show that an estimated 20% of the population experience this chronic condition (www.aafp.org) But I don't actually believe those numbers and I've only known three other people to suffer from this disorder, and one of them diagnosed with narcolepsy. Listed below are some known causes of EDS:
- Insufficient quantity or quality of sleep at night (an obvious cause)
- Certain sleep disorders
- Certain medications
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Circadian rhythm disorder (i.e., jet-lag, shift-work, etc.)(www.wikipedia.org)
Needless to say, I've learned to chew gum during meetings and drink lots of caffeine throughout the day. And it's not very fun being joked with at work as "the girl who falls asleep during meetings", with my peers constantly tapping me, laughing and saying, "Don't fall asleep!" It seems the more you get comfortable at any time during the day, it's only minutes before that heavy feeling begins to invade your activity and the need to sleep is so intense it's almost unbearable. I don't think there's any one thing that will completely eliminate the symptoms, but possibly a combination of treatments can significantly ease some of the symptoms of chronic EDS, including standing up or walking, engaging in conversation with someone, participating in regular exercise, and if time permits, taking a short nap to re-energize if the feeling becomes too overpowering. It goes without saying getting more sleep at night may help decrease symptoms. Each individual is different, just as there are various causes in each case of EDS. Of course, no one should self-diagnose for this condition and scheduling a visit to your primary care physician to discuss your daytime sleepiness would be a great starting point.