It’s natural to feel drowsy occasionally after you stay up late with a sick child or toss and turn because your allergies are bothering you. However, when you’re sleepy most of the time, it could be a sign of something more serious.
About 20% of Americans experience Excessive Daytime Sleepiness that causes them to fall asleep during daily activities like reading or watching TV. Even milder cases of insomnia and fatigue can increase your risk for car accidents and work injuries and make you more vulnerable to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Sleepiness has many different causes, so getting the appropriate treatment will depend on finding out what’s keeping you from getting the rest you need.
Take a closer look at daytime drowsiness and how to overcome it.
Working with Your Doctor:
- Try CPAP. There can be many reasons for daytime drowsiness, but sleep apnea is one of the most common. If you have this disorder that causes your breathing to repeatedly stop during sleep, your doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure using a face mask and machine to deliver a steady flow of air.
- Manage diabetes. Diabetes can disrupt your sleep with frequent trips to the bathroom and other symptoms that keep waking you up. You may need to check your blood glucose before bedtime and wear an insulin pump to keep your blood sugar level overnight.
- Treat depression and anxiety. Your mental health plays a role too. Depression and anxiety disrupt normal sleep patterns, and sleep deprivation can make your symptoms more intense. Help is available through counseling and medication.
- Adjust your medications. Some drugs can cause insomnia while others can be part of the cure. Your doctor may want to switch your prescriptions if you’re experiencing unwelcome side effects.
- See a specialist. Positive sleep habits can make a big difference, but some patients need more help. A sleep specialist can conduct safe and painless tests to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms, so you can find relief.
Changing Your Sleep Habits:
- Maintain a regular schedule. Stick to a consistent bedtime and waking time even on weekends and holidays. Avoid napping late in the day when it could make it more difficult to fall asleep later.
- Darken your bedroom. Sleep cycles are closely tied to exposure to light. Taking a walk in the morning sun will wake up your brain, and hanging blackout curtains
in your bedroom will make it easier to settle down at night.
- Upgrade your bedding. Increase your comfort levels with good quality mattresses and pillows that match your individual needs. Look for a mattress that maintains the natural curves in your back.
- Block out noise. Maybe you’re tired during the day because you’ve been listening to car alarms and your neighbor’s stereo all night. Use a fan or white noise machine to drown out background sounds.
- Work out. Regular exercise will encourage restful sleep. Focus on aerobic activities such as running, biking, and swimming.
- Create bedtime rituals. Soothing practices ease the transition from a busy day to a peaceful night. Take a warm bath and listen to soft music. Put on a plush robe or flannel pajamas. A light snack can ward off hunger pangs, but steer clear of heavy food that will take too much effort to digest.
- Turn off your phone. Take a break from brightly lit screens and pop up ads. Put away your phone and other devices at least one hour before retiring.
Lifestyle changes and medical care can help you to feel more energetic and alert. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and talk with your doctor if daytime drowsiness is interfering with your regular activities.