Key Points about Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness causes you to have trouble focusing on your daily tasks due to feeling very tired during the day.
  • There are many conditions and factors that can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Treatment for this condition focuses on treating the underlying cause, typically with a mix of lifestyle modifications and medications, when needed.

Overview

Excessive daytime sleepiness – or EDS – causes you to feel tired all day, and sometimes you just can’t fight the urge to fall asleep during the day. EDS is the classic first symptom of narcolepsy, a condition that can cause you to spontaneously fall asleep. EDS. Up to 20 percent of adults have sleepiness that is severe enough to interfere with their daily lives.

Excessive daytime sleepiness causes 

Causes of EDS can include:

  • Certain medications
  • Depression
  • Illicit drug or alcohol use
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Narcolepsy
  • Nicotine (a chemical in cigarettes)
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Obesity
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Working third (overnight) shift

Excessive daytime sleepiness risk factors

Factors that put you at an increased risk for developing EDS include:

  • Being obese
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Having depression
  • Having narcolepsy
  • Having RLS
  • Having sleep apnea
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Not getting regular physical activity
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Taking certain medications
  • Using illicit drugs 

Excessive daytime sleepiness symptoms

Signs and symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Bad memory
  • Changes in mood
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feeling tired almost constantly
  • Irritability
  • Not feeling refreshed after taking a nap
  • Trouble concentrating on tasks
  • Trouble staying awake

Excessive daytime sleepiness diagnosis

Your specialist will use one or more of the following diagnostic tools to diagnose excessive daytime sleepiness:

  • Physical exam. Your specialist will complete a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms related to excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleep log. Your specialist may ask you to keep a detailed sleep log that includes information on when you go to bed and get up, how many times you wake up during the night and other information.
  • Sleep study. You may need to undergo a sleep study in a sleep lab so that your provider can closely analyze your sleep-wake patterns and brain activity.

Excessive daytime sleepiness treatment

Your specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments for this condition:

  • Treating the underlying condition. The first step in treating excessive daytime sleepiness is to determine the underlying cause and get that condition under control. 
  • Lifestyle modifications. Your sleep specialist may recommend you make some lifestyle modifications that can help better regulate your sleep patterns. You should expose yourself to sunlight (or artificial bright light) during the day when they should be awake. You should also make your bedroom as dark and calming as possible. Your specialist may recommend you try a sleep mask or white noise machine to help you relax and stay asleep longer. Try relaxation techniques such as a warm bath and soothing music as part of your bedtime routine.
  • Medications. If lifestyle modifications aren’t enough to control the symptoms of your condition, your specialist may prescribe one or more medications. These medications include short-acting medications to help you sleep better, as well as medications that stimulate your brain during the day and help you stay more alert. Melatonin can also reduce the impact of jet lag and may help your body adjust to working overnight.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a sleep medicine provider for more specialized treatment.