Overview of Daytime Sleepiness
Daytime sleepiness is defined as sudden attacks of sleep or even just an overwhelming daytime sleepiness. This may mean that it is difficult for you to stay awake for any period of time. This is a very hard thing to deal with when you have a very busy life.
Symptoms of Daytime Sleepiness
People that experience daytime sleepiness can often fall asleep anywhere without warning. They may also experience decreased alertness or focus. This makes it very difficult to get through daily tasks. Some people also experience a sudden loss of muscle tone. This condition is uncontrollable and usually occurs during times of intense emotion. This can occur multiple times a day or just twice per year. Sleep paralysis is also a symptom of daytime sleepiness. This is characterized by the inability to move or speak when you are falling asleep or while you are waking up. Even though these symptoms only last for a short period of time, they can be terrifying. Most people are aware that they have this condition and can remember when it happens. Most of the time rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs during a deep sleep, but with people with daytime sleepiness, they may have no problem hitting REM sleep at any point in the day. Hallucinations are also very common. The most common one is seeing a stranger in your bedroom. This typically occurs when you are not fully asleep but you begin dreaming and your brain accepts that as your reality.
When to See a Doctor about Daytime Sleepiness
You will want to see your doctor when your daytime sleepiness begins to get in the way of your daily life. If you cannot focus at work or have trouble staying awake during the day, then there may be a sleep problem occurring. You may also notice that you are very caffeine dependent, or you wake up with a headache and/or dry mouth. These are signs that you do not get good sleep.
Causes of Daytime Sleepiness
The main cause of daytime sleepiness is a sleep problem that is occurring during the night. It is important to talk to your physician about what the root of the problem may be. There are three common sleep disorders that are likely to blame for daytime sleepiness. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder. This disorder causes you to stop breathing during the night, which means that you will likely not be getting a good night’s sleep. Another problem is narcolepsy, which is the brain’s inability to control the sleep and wake cycles properly. Restless Leg Syndrome is also a probable cause of daytime sleepiness. People that are experiencing restless leg syndrome are often struggling with pain and are uncomfortable. Usually the cause of daytime sleepiness is a sleep problem.
Risk Factors of Daytime Sleepiness
There are two main risk factors associated with daytime sleepiness. This is age and family history. Most people begin to feel the symptoms of daytime sleepiness between the ages of 10-30 years old. You are also at a higher risk for experiencing daytime sleepiness if you have a family member with a sleeping disorder.
Complications of Daytime Sleepiness
One of the main complications of daytime sleepiness is the misunderstanding of the symptoms by the public. You may be viewed as lazy or lethargic and you may fall behind at work or school. People that experience daytime sleepiness may also have problems with relationships because they know it may cause muscle problems. People with a sleeping problem are also typically overweight, which is due to the slower metabolism. In some serious cases, daytime sleepiness may cause physical harm. You are at a higher risk for a car accident if you happen to fall asleep while driving. The same is true when you are cooking.
Diagnosis of Daytime Sleepiness
Your physician may begin the diagnosis by asking you a serious of questions. These questions may include asking for a detailed sleep history and also ask you to fill out a sleepiness scale. If you are not sure about your sleep history, your physician may recommend that you take a detailed diary of your sleeping patterns and how your alertness relates to how sleepy you are. Next, your physician may request a sleep study to be completed. Sleep studies can be completed at home or in a sleep lab. Our office offers home sleep studies.
Home Sleep Studies begin with an initial consultation in our office. Your physician will then schedule a time for you to come pick up the sleep study machine. There are three wires to put on, and the test will study your breathing patterns while you sleep. From here, your physician will be able to view the results and properly diagnose a sleep problem.
Treatment of Daytime Sleepiness
There are many treatments that may help your daytime sleepiness. A stimulant may be prescribed to help you stay away during the day. If you are able to stay awake during the day, then you may be more likely to fall asleep and sleep better at night. There are also a variety of other medications that your physician may recommend. Speak with your physician about which treatment route would be best for you.
There are also many lifestyle changes that may be helpful to avoid daytime sleepiness. Most people experience daytime sleepiness because they are not able to sleep well at night. You will want to stick to a schedule even on the weekends. Avoid the use of nicotine or alcohol, especially at night. Try to avoid naps as much as possible. In the beginning, it may be helpful to take a few naps, which will help to reduce sleepiness for the next couple of hours. The goal for these lifestyle changes is to make you have a better night’s sleep, which will make you feel more alert during the day. Regular exercise may also be helpful. This will ease stress and anxiety and may help you sleep better at night.