Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: What You Need to Know

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Having a hard time staying awake or alert during the day is considered excessive daytime sleepiness. Sedentary activities, such as driving or working at a desk, can exacerbate feelings of sleepiness. An occasional bout of sleepiness after a lack of rest is normal, but if sleepiness occurs regularly for at least three months, it’s considered excessive. 

In addition to affecting alertness, concentration, and attention, EDS can also have an adverse effect on one’s overall health. This includes the risk of falling asleep while driving, or driving with impaired judgment. It can also lead to issues with weight, including a greater chance of becoming obese. It can also contribute to a greater risk of developing certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.

What Causes Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?

The cause of excessive daytime sleepiness can be attributed to a variety of factors. A chronic lack of sleep, whether due to long work hours, an irregular schedule, insomnia, or other factors, are among the most common causes. 

Getting fragmented or otherwise poor-quality sleep can also cause excessive sleepiness. Getting up several times during the night to use the restroom, for example, disrupts the natural progression of sleep and may lower the proportion of restorative sleep. Smoking, insufficient exercise, and other lifestyle habits can all degrade sleep quality and make you sleepy during the day.

Many people who are sleepy during the day don’t appear to have a problem sleeping enough at night. In these cases, sleepiness could be a symptom of a health problem or a sleep disorder.

Treatments For Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness treatments

Some treatments for moderate to severe excessive daytime sleepiness are determined by the underlying disorder. Rather than making assumptions, work with your doctor to pinpoint the exact cause of your EDS. Daytime sleepiness improves as the disorders or causes are addressed—often using a combination of treatments. 

When it comes to treating EDS, doctors frequently identify one or more of the underlying disorders and prescribe treatments for them: 

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Sleep Apnea 

Positive airway pressure is one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea of any severity. 

Narcolepsy

Behavioral therapy, timed short naps, and proper sleep hygiene are all used to treat narcolepsy. Modafinil in combination with sodium oxybate is one example of a wake-promoting medication that can be used to help you stay awake during the day. 

See also Narcolepsy: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Insomnia

Treatments for insomnia differ. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is usually the first treatment option for both adolescents and adults. Pharmacological treatment is a short-term, secondary treatment that should be used in conjunction with CBT. Benzodiazepines, atypical antidepressants, antihistamines, and melatonin are some of the medications used to treat insomnia. 

Circadian Rhythm Disorders

CRDs, such as sleep phase delay, can be treated with a combination of morning light therapy and evening melatonin. It’s worth noting that a melatonin prescription for adolescents might have to be written off-label. Other types of circadian rhythm disorders, such as those caused by jet lag or shift work, can be treated by adjusting one’s sleep schedule and scheduling naps before traveling.

Medications for Treatment of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness medications

Although many medications are available to treat excessive sleepiness, they are frequently prescribed in conjunction with other treatments, therapies, and behavioral changes. The following are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for EDS patients: 

  • Modafinil is a drug that is used to treat excessive sleepiness in narcolepsy patients as well as residual sleepiness in some sleep apnea patients. The drug, according to scientists, affects the brain’s sleep-wake centers. A headache is the most common side effect. The development of insomnia or nervousness can be more serious side effects, though these are uncommon. 
  • Armodafinil is a wake-promoting agent similar to modafinil that is used to treat sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy or sleep apnea. Headache and dizziness are two minor side effects. Difficulty breathing or swallowing, depression, or thoughts of self-harm are some of the more serious side effects. 
  • Sodium Oxybate improves daytime alertness by increasing the slow-wave sleep phase and improving daytime alertness through mechanisms that are not fully understood. The medication reduces the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night. Depression and confusion are possible side effects. 
  • Methylphenidate is a narcolepsy medication that promotes alertness. It’s also given to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Irritability, nervousness, and difficulty falling asleep at night are all possible side effects for some users. 
  • Benzodiazepine Receptor Agonists are hypnotics that promote restful sleep at night. EDS can be reduced by increasing the quantity and quality of sleep at night. This class of drugs carries a number of risks, including dependence, loss of effectiveness, withdrawal symptoms, and overdose. 
  • Melatonin is a sleep hormone that the human body naturally produces in the hours leading up to bedtime. Melatonin supplements, taken before bedtime, can help people with circadian rhythm disorders fall asleep and wake up on time. In the United States, melatonin is sold over-the-counter. 
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Before starting or stopping any medication, talk to your doctor. Ascertain that they are fully informed about your medical history, including allergies, physical, and mental health diagnoses. Also, tell them about any other medications, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter medications you’re taking, as these could interfere with your prescription. 

If you’ve been given a prescription to treat excessive daytime sleepiness, carefully follow your doctor’s and pharmacist’s instructions. Avoid doing anything potentially dangerous, like driving, until you know how the medication affects you. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these medications can have a variety of side effects. Make a list of any side effects you’re having and tell your doctor about them. In the event of an emergency, seek medical help right away.

See also Sleep Medications: How to Choose the Right One

Can Alternative Medicine or Herbal Pills Help?

Excessive daytime sleepiness alternative medicine

Are you looking for a natural treatment for excessive sleepiness?

Some over-the-counter caffeine pills claim to help you “wake up,” but at 200 mg, they often contain the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Although some of these pills may give you an energy boost, they can also cause jitteriness, headaches, and an increase in your heart rate. Caffeine in excess can disrupt your circadian rhythm, making it difficult to sleep at night. Caffeine can also become less effective at providing alertness as a person becomes dependent on it. 

Some people take herbal supplements in the hopes of getting a better night’s sleep. Chamomile, lavender, and kava are all popular options. However, there has been little research done on these supplements, and there is little evidence that they have a positive effect on sleep. 

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Chamomile, for example, does not appear to help people with insomnia sleep better, but it may help people without insomnia sleep better. Although kava has been used to treat anxiety, there isn’t enough research on its effects on sleep. The use of kava may increase the risk of liver damage. 

Overall, rather than relying on pills and supplements, it is preferable to focus on sleep quality and quantity whenever possible. In the long run, a daily routine and good sleep hygiene will be the most beneficial and least likely to cause negative effects.

Summary

After a night of poor sleep, excessive sleepiness is normal. Persistent sleepiness, on the other hand, could be a sign of a sleep disorder or another underlying health problem. 

Excessive sleepiness can be treated with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and alternative therapies, but it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any medication.

Anyone who has a lot of sleepiness on a regular basis should see their doctor for a diagnosis. Treating the underlying cause can help you sleep better and reduce your risk of other problems. Indeed, even simple lifestyle changes can help improve sleep quality in many treatment plans.

See also Sleep Disorder Pills: What You Need to Know

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