Feeling slow and sluggish today?  Feeling slow and sluggish every day?  If so, you may be dealing with excessive daytime sleepiness.  The National Sleep Foundation estimates that almost 20% of us suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness often enough that it impacts our lives.  This means that too many of us are unintentionally nodding off in class, falling asleep in meetings, and drifting somewhere between awake and asleep when we are driving.  According to the NSF’s Excessive Sleepiness Awareness site, not getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep at night can impede your ability to do even basic things required to run your life.

So, what is causing all this excessive sleepiness? 


Poor Sleep Hygiene

For many of us, the root cause of our inability to stay awake during the day comes from poor sleep hygiene.  This means we don’t have good sleep habits that support getting the sleep we need each night.  Things like drinking caffeine at night, not following a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, and taking our electronics to bed with us keep us from getting the sleep we need.  One of the foundations of good sleep hygiene is following a standard schedule that has you going to sleep and getting up at the same times every day.  It is also important to create an environment that is supportive of sleep.  Banish all electronics from the bedroom including the television and check that lights and sounds aren’t routinely disturbing your sleep.  Improving your sleep hygiene can go a long way toward getting you the sleep you need to be awake and alert all day long.


Medication Side Effects

Another of the most common reasons we are struggling to stay awake during the day is medication side effects.  Many prescription and non-prescription medications cause sleepiness especially those that produce a sedating effect.  These medications include:

If you are taking any medication, even one that is not on this list, and are experiencing regular bouts of excessive daytime sleepiness, it is important to discuss this potential side effect with your doctor.    This also illustrates why it is critical to notify your doctor of all medications you are taking at each visit.


Sleep Disorders

Another of the most common causes of excessive sleepiness is sleep disorders.  Although there are many sleep disorders, one thing they all have in common is that they disrupt your sleep.  When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will experience periods of excessive sleepiness during the day.  If you are regularly nodding off unintentionally and at inappropriate times, you should see your doctor to ensure you do not have a sleep disorder.


Working Off-Hour Shifts

If you work in a profession that requires off-hours shifts like nurses or police officers, the disruption in your normal biological rhythm may result in excessive sleepiness.  Oftentimes, people who work off-hours struggle to get the sleep they need when they are not working because their work schedule is not in sync with the sleep schedule their body wants to keep.   If you struggle to get the sleep you need because of your job, focus on improving your sleep hygiene, sticking to a sleep schedule even when you are not working, and make sure your sleep environment supports your need to sleep during the day.

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