Do you frequently find it difficult to stay awake during the day? If you feel very sleepy during the day, you’re not alone. Up to one in five Americans suffers from this common problem. Daytime sleepiness can be particularly problematic if you drive a motor vehicle on the job or operate machinery for a living. Although most cases of daytime sleepiness are not caused by serious medical problems, it’s important to be evaluated by your doctor if you experience this symptom as it can be caused by certain types of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
What are some of the most common reasons you might feel very sleepy during the day? By far the most frequent cause of drowsiness is a lack of night time sleep. Although you may think you’re getting sufficient sleep when you sleep six hours, studies have shown that after two weeks of six hour sleep times, many people show subtle decreases in their ability to learn and carry out tasks. Most experts emphasize that at least seven hours of sleep is needed each night to maintain optimal physical and mental health. If you feel very sleepy in the day, consider keeping a nightly sleep diary to see how many hours of sleep you’re actually getting. If you’re getting less than seven hours per night, you need to make more time for rest.
Another common cause of drowsiness during the day arises from the use of medications. Many people don’t consider the effects their medications have on their level of daytime alertness. Many drugs can affect the nervous system and cause drowsiness during the day. Some of the most common ones are medications used to treat depression and anxiety, antihistamines used to treat allergies, cough medications, muscle relaxants, epilepsy medications, and even some types of blood pressure medications. If you’re on medications and feel very sleepy during the day, check with your doctor to see if your medications could be contributing. Don’t forget about non-prescription medications such as over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Alcohol also has sedative-type effects.
If you have a problem with snoring at night and feel very sleepy during the day, it’s even more important that you see your doctor. Sleep apnea, a condition where you stop breathing for brief periods during the night, is another cause of drowsiness during the day. This is a condition that can have a variety of negative health consequences if left untreated.
Other causes of daytime drowsiness and sleepiness include the sleep disorder known as narcolepsy, a condition that causes you to suddenly fall into a deep sleep without warning, as well as underlying medical problems such as diabetes and an underactive thyroid. A visit to your doctor should help to rule out these causes. If you feel very sleepy during the day, don’t take any chances. See your doctor to find out why.