Do you find it difficult to stay awake or nod off right after lunch, even after a full night’s sleep?
Scientists refer to this as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (hypersomnia). It’s surprisingly common among people who dedicate 8-9 hours to their sleep routine. So, it isn’t just about being tired.
Excessive daytime sleepiness and prolonged fatigue during the day may be due to a condition like idiopathic hypersomnia, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, or fibromyalgia.
According to the Journal of Thoracic Disease, about 18% of people are affected by excessive drowsiness. While fatigue is often associated with low energy levels, over-sleepiness can make you feel so exhausted that it begins to affect your work, social life, and relationships.
Why Do I Fall Asleep During the Daytime?
Many different medical issues can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness. Therefore, you must talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms to receive treatment.
Sleep disorders or nutrient deficiencies can leave you chronically tired every day, making you crave more sleep at inopportune times.
However, some disorders cause perpetual drowsiness, with no known cause, making you fall asleep in your chair, despite getting 8 hours of sleep at night.
The following conditions may cause daytime sleepiness:
Imagine living in constant sleepiness, even if you sleep the recommended hours.
You feel the need to take frequent naps, and you never feel rested or recharged, no matter how much you sleep. If this sounds like you, you may have idiopathic hypersomnia.
Excessive daytime sleepiness is a symptom of idiopathic hypersomnia, which means excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia) with no identifiable cause (idiopathic).
The condition is characterized by the need for sleep, even longer than 10 hours at a time—people with idiopathic hypersomnia report feeling sleepy constantly and not experiencing restorative sleep.
Although the cause of the condition is unknown, some experts believe it may be due to a nervous system disorder. Unfortunately, there’s no known cause or treatment available.
However, you can manage symptoms with sleep hygiene practices like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and not taking stimulants, such as caffeine, if you’re taking amphetamine-based drugs.
Some of us dose off in the middle of a movie or a boring lecture but falling asleep while driving, eating a meal, or in the middle of a conversation is unusual. However, this is common with narcolepsy.
The condition causes you to fall asleep suddenly, often at inconvenient times. Some symptoms of narcolepsy include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Falling asleep suddenly, without knowing, in usual conditions.
- Vivid dreams.
- Sleep paralysis.
- Cataplexy (loss of muscle tone) makes narcolepsy different from idiopathic hypersomnia.
Although there’s no cure, your doctor may recommend medication to manage the symptoms. You may also benefit from better sleep hygiene and working out regularly.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea causes individuals to wake up frequently from their sleep. Often, these people don’t know they’re waking up, causing unexpected tiredness during the daytime.
Obstructive sleep apnea affects over 20 million adults in the U.S., making it the most common sleep disorder. Apnea means cessation of breathing.
Sleep apnea causes the person to stop breathing periodically at night, with each pause in breath lasting for 10-20 seconds. People with sleep apnea may experience these cessations up to 100 times per night.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to a blockage of the upper respiratory airways. The condition causes the muscles in the throat to collapse and the tongue to fall back into the airways. Also, it may occur due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids that inhibit airflow to the lungs.
During an obstructive sleep apnea episode, the brain wakes itself up to ensure that the respiratory system continues to function. In many cases, people with sleep apnea don’t realize that they have the condition until a bed partner notices their interrupted breathing patterns and informs them.
The poor sleep quality that results from multiple arousals throughout the night to remove the airway obstruction and breathe properly makes daytime sleepiness the most common symptom.
Anemia is a condition that occurs due to low hemoglobin levels, excessive blood loss, not consuming enough iron from your diet, or when your body can’t absorb enough iron.
Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs and delivers it to the rest of the body. Anemia causes the tissues to receive insufficient oxygen due to a low blood cell count or a condition that drops your hemoglobin count.
When the body doesn’t have enough hemoglobin to deliver oxygen, the heart must work harder to ensure that vital organs receive adequate oxygen.
Because anemia makes the heart work harder, it causes people to feel tired, even after a full night’s sleep. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia, but it can be improved by eating more iron-rich foods. Some good sources of iron include:
- Lean meat
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark leafy greens
A doctor can check if you have anemia, find the cause, and form a plan to raise your hemoglobin levels.
Are you frequently tired, having trouble focusing, gaining weight, or having difficulty staying up?
The thyroid gland, found behind the trachea, produces hormones that regulate your metabolism, temperature, and other functions.
A thyroid disorder called hypothyroidism is characteristic of the body producing too little thyroid hormone. It could be one of the reasons you feel sleepy or lethargic all the time.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by many factors, including iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, or the overtreatment of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is more common in women than men. Other symptoms include coldness, constipation, weight gain, mental fog, and difficulty concentrating.
Hypothyroidism can be difficult to manage, as eating can interfere with the treatment. Some nutrients can affect the thyroid gland function, impairing the body’s ability to absorb replacement hormones, which will be part of your thyroid treatment.
Foods to avoid during treatment include:
- Soy products (tofu, miso, and tempeh). People with hypothyroidism and iodine deficiencies should monitor their soy intake, as too much can interfere with thyroid medication absorption.
- Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower). These vegetables contain nutrients that may affect the production of the thyroid hormone and its ability to use iodine.
- Fried food. Fats from butter, fried food, and meat cuts can inhibit thyroid medication absorption.
- Sugar. Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism, causing weight gain. Avoid sugar because it contains no nutrients and is notorious for causing weight gain.
- Processed food. Packed foods are often high in salt (sodium). Hypothyroidism increases the risk of high blood pressure, and too much sodium can worsen the situation.
- Caffeine hinders the absorption of thyroid hormone replacement. Don’t start the day with coffee.
- Alcohol affects thyroid hormone production and thyroid hormone absorption during treatment.
Experiencing insomnia, either during or before your monthly period, is common. During the premenstrual phase, your body may produce lower melatonin levels, which is a hormone that regulates sleep and responds to dark and light.
Your sleep stages may be affected during your menstrual phase as the period of deep sleep, also called slow-wave sleep (SWS), increases. This causes daytime fatigue that may cause you to yawn all day.
If you find yourself falling asleep in the daytime every month before or during your period, do the following:
- Nap. Taking a 15-minute nap during your lunch break can boost your productivity.
- Stretch frequently. Stand on your toes, lock your hands together, and stretch upwards as far as you comfortably can.
- Refreshing drink. Peppermint or lemongrass tea can lift your mood and make you feel more awake.
- Deep breathing. When you breathe deeply, you deliver a surge of oxygen to the brain, and this oxygen high wakes you up. You can also incorporate deep breathing into your workout, especially when warming up.
- Sun. If you work all day indoors, open the windows and get out whenever you get the opportunity.
Fibromyalgia is a generalized pain in the body accompanied by fatigue, emotional problems, and sleeping issues. People with fibromyalgia report waking up too early, having trouble falling asleep, or maintaining sleep.
The condition disrupts the natural phases of your sleep cycle, particularly your deep sleep stage, which is the most restorative. When your body doesn’t get enough deep sleep, it may not feel well-rested, resulting in fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
Although fibromyalgia has no cure, doctors can manage the pain and fatigue that keep you up at night.
Depression can cause you to feel sleepy in the daytime, along with other symptoms such as low energy, feelings of despair and hopelessness, insomnia, nightmares, waking up frequently in the night, difficulty focusing, etc.
Depression can be mentally and physically debilitating, causing fatigue and sleepiness that may not even be caused by having sleep issues at night.
Along with treatment measures recommended by a doctor, you can make some lifestyle changes to reduce daytime sleepiness, such as:
- Find an exercise you enjoy and do for at least 30 minutes, 5 times per week.
- Spending some time outside every day and going for short walks.
- Talking to a friend or family member that you trust.
- Practicing self-care techniques, such as taking care of your hair and skin, taking Epsom salt baths, and regularly using essential oils for aromatherapy.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
This is a severe premenstrual syndrome that occurs during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle.
The luteal phase occurs 10-14 days before your period and may make you feel different, even though you feel normal for the rest of the month.
You may also experience mood swings, irritability, exhaustion, drowsiness, bloating, and joint pain. These symptoms disappear as soon as your period starts.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
This condition causes constant fatigue that can severely interfere with your daily responsibilities. Viral diseases like Lyme disease usually cause chronic fatigue syndrome.
Some people may have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. While symptoms may be similar, they’re not the same and will require different treatment methods.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
The condition causes your legs, and sometimes your arms, to move involuntarily during sleep.
This movement can be substantial enough to wake you up in the middle of the night, causing frequent sleep disturbances that affect your sleep quality. The disorder affects your natural sleep cycle, causing you to feel sleepy and tired during the daytime.
Although the direct cause of PLMD hasn’t been determined yet, it may be genetic or associated with central nervous system issues or anemia.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
RLS causes a twitching or tingling sensation in the legs or an urge to move them while asleep.
The condition causes frequent sleep disturbances because, despite being still, the legs have sensations of persistent activity. The vexing, aching, and urge to move only subsides when you move around.
RLS can affect your sleep patterns, resulting in persistent fatigue that inhibits your daily functions.
It’s common during pregnancy and may be exacerbated by certain medications. This is likely to be allergy drugs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to alleviate depression.
Stimulants like tobacco, drinking alcohol, or frequently consuming coffee may worsen the condition.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
Proper sleep hygiene refers to the habits you practice before going to bed. Some good sleep hygiene practices you can introduce include:
- Sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even at weekends.
- Not drinking alcohol. Alcohol affects your normal sleep cycle and the quality of your sleep.
- No coffee. Caffeine can stay active in the body for 8 hours or more, preventing you from sleeping.
- Avoid sleeping pills. Sleeping pills result in a lower quality of sleep.
- Not using blue light devices. Restrict the use of cell phones, computers, and TV before bedtime.
- Avoid long daytime naps. While a nap for 30 minutes can energize you, sleeping for too long in the daytime can prevent you from falling asleep at night.
- Not exercising. Keep your workouts for early morning or afternoon hours, as working out can increase your adrenaline levels and heart rate, making you feel alert for hours.
- Not eating. Eat at least 3 hours before bedtime to prevent heartburn and bloating. Here are some of the best sleeping positions for digestive problems.
- Bedding setup. Use clean and comfortable bedding and pillow covers
- No drying clothes. Don’t let clothes dry on a radiator in your bedroom.
You may be sleep deprived because you recently pulled an all-nighter or routinely get improper sleep. The American Sleep Association suggests that you should get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Not being able to get even the bare minimum of 7 hours can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, affecting your performance at work or school.
The solution for sleep deprivation is a schedule that allows you to fit in more sleep. Also, it helps to practice sleep hygiene habits to get quality sleep.
Around 40 million people in America report experiencing insomnia annually. Insomnia isn’t just one condition, as there are different classes and types.
If you find that you’re tired and unable to fall asleep, this may be due to onset insomnia. Alternatively, if you fall asleep but can’t maintain your sleep, you may have maintenance insomnia.
Some common causes of insomnia include:
- Anxiety, depression, and other stress-related issues.
- Acid reflux, chronic pain, or other medical issues.
- Irregular work shifts.
- Use of stimulants, such as nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine.
- Alcohol consumption before bedtime.
Having insomnia during stressful events or while traveling is common. In most cases, this type of insomnia usually goes away without medical intervention.
Conditions like narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, sleep apnea, depression, and nutritional deficiencies require lifestyle modifications and medical assistance.