Tiredness and Sleepiness

When is it abnormal?

Everyone has days when they feel sleepier than usual. We have all experienced the consequences of “pulling an all-nighter”. However, if you feel sleepy often during the day or you regularly struggle to stay awake while sitting on the couch or at work, this is not normal. Half an hour after getting out of bed, you should feel awake and refreshed. If you find it difficult to get through the day without the need for caffeine, you are likely to be experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness.  

What causes excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)?

There are many causes which may contribute to your sleepiness. The most common cause is insufficient sleep. Most people need between 7 ½ hours to 9 hours of sleep each night.

If you feel sleepy despite an adequate amount of sleep, you may have a sleep disorder. There are many sleep disorders that can cause sleepiness, including:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnoea 
  2. Insomnia
  3. Circadian rhythm (body clock) sleep-wake disorders
  4. Restless legs syndrome
  5. Narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia

Medical conditions such as diabetes, underactive thyroid, anaemia or low iron can also cause tiredness. There are subtle but important differences between tiredness (fatigue) and sleepiness. Tiredness is often due to an underlying medical condition, where sleepiness is usually due to inadequate or poor quality sleep.

Mental health conditions and medication or substance use are also important causes of sleepiness.

When to seek help?

Excessive daytime sleepiness which occurs frequently is never normal. . Untreated sleep problems  can affect your memory, concentration, mood and performance at work or school.  They can also increase your risk of having a motor vehicle accident. In the long term, EDS may increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

How we can help you

Our specialists at Lung and Sleep will conduct a thorough assessment to determine the cause for your sleepiness. This involves reviewing your sleep and medical history and often conducting a sleep study. Blood tests may be required if a medical condition is suspected.

There are effective treatments for most sleep disorders that cause sleepiness. Our sleep specialists will work closely with you to select the best treatment, or combination of treatments, to improve the quality of your sleep and ultimately improve how you feel during the day.

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