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Why Am I So Tired?

What’s making you wake up sleepy? photo credit: Unfurled via photopin cc

If this is a question you find yourself asking too often, the National Sleep Foundation(NSF) has created a new website centered on excessive sleepiness to help you find the answer.

According to the Overview and Facts section of the new site, about 20% of people experience excessive sleepiness and it is the leading complaint of those seeking assistance from sleep centers.  Excessive sleepiness is not a sleep disorder, but it may be a warning sign of one.  If you are always wondering why you wake up tired and feel tired until you crawl back into bed, this new site may help you understand why and what you can do to make it better.


What is Excessive Sleepiness?

Everyone feels tired from time to time, so you may be wondering how you can tell the difference between tired and excessively sleepy.  Tired is what you feel when you didn’t get enough sleep last night.  Maybe you were up late working on something important or spent the night tossing and turning.    Either way, you can directly tie the tired feeling you have to not getting the amount of sleep you usually do.  You may not feel your best and wish you could spend a little longer in bed, but being tired like this doesn’t really impact the different areas of your life as you go through the day.  Once you get caught up on your sleep, the tired feeling goes away.

If you are excessively sleepy, you feel drowsy and lethargic more days than not.  There doesn’t seem to be any consistent connection between the amounts of sleep you get on any given night and how sleepy you feel the next day.  Your sleepiness affects most areas of your life and you struggle to be productive at work or school and find yourself struggling to stay awake at inappropriate times like while driving.  You may find yourself making mistakes, nodding off in meetings or class, and missing out on parts of your life because you are so tired.

While many people with excessive sleepiness call their experience fatigue, this kind of sleepiness is different that actual fatigue.  Fatigue means you are lacking in energy, not necessarily that you are overtired.  While those with excessive sleepiness are more likely to be too tired to participate in parts of their life rather than suffering from a lack of energy.


How Can I Tell if I am Tired, Fatigued, or Excessively Sleepy?

If you are still unsure about where you fall on the “tiredness scale”, you can take the quiz provided by the NSF to see if the kind of tired you are feeling is the kind of tired that means it is time to see a doctor.  If you are concerned that excessive sleepiness seems to be impacting your life, talk to your doctor.  You may have an underlying sleep disorder that is keeping you from getting the sleep you need to be awake and alert.  Additionally, as long term sleep deprivation increases the risk of serious health conditions, getting an answer to this question may actually save your life.


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