What Causes Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, Really?
If you find excessive daytime sleepiness interfering with your daily activities several times per month or even a few times per week, you’re not alone.
Nearly half of us say that excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, causes us problems a few times a month, and one fifth admit that it happens several days a week. That’s a lot of sleepy people.
If you find yourself dozing off when you slow down or are in a quiet situation, or falling asleep during movies, you may be one of them.
Studies have shown that excessive daytime sleepiness can be a real problem.
It makes it harder to focus and participate in what’s going on around you; it makes it more difficult to learn new things; and it contributes to accidents, both at work and at home. In fact, sleepy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
But what causes excessive daytime sleepiness, really?
There are actually many things that can cause you to be sleepy during the daytime. The most obvious, of course, is lack of nighttime sleep.
While most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, many of us get by on 6 hours or less. Your body does its best to adjust to stressful situations, and after a few days of shortened sleep you may think you’re doing just fine; however, the reality is that if you’re getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night, you’re probably chronically sleep-deprived.
Even when you’re getting enough hours of sleep, you may not be getting good quality sleep. If you toss and turn, or wake frequently during the night, you may be getting quantity but you’re definitely not getting quality. And you may be sleepy during the daytime as a result.
Many things can contribute to poor sleep: stress, failure to “wind down” before bed, physical discomfort, or the need to get up and go to the bathroom during the night can all wreck your night. Lights, such as streetlights or even “sleeping” electronics can reduce your quality of sleep too.
Your partner’s sleep habits also affect you. If your partner is restless, frequently gets up during the night or snores, it not only disturbs their sleep but makes your sleep less restful too.
Poor “sleep hygiene”
Your bedtime habits have a strong effect on your sleep. Watching television, reading, or doing other activities in your bed sends your brain mixed signals.
If you use your bed for anything other than sleep and sex, going to bed may fail to tell your brain that the day is over and it’s time to rest. And if you don’t have a wind-down period between activities and bed, you may have a hard time going to sleep and staying asleep.
Having a nightly routine helps tell your brain it’s time to slow down and get ready for sleep.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness; OSA sufferers struggle to breathe during the night and consequently wake multiple times, resulting in daytime drowsiness.
If you have OSA, you may not even realize it; you’re likely to feel like you slept through the whole night because the periods of waking are usually so short that you don’t remember them.
Chronic snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, and risk factors also include high blood pressure and obesity.