Many of us will occasionally experience days where we have excessive day time sleepiness. This is often caused by a restless sleep the night before, an intense workout the previous day, or even early symptoms of a virus that is in its early stages. It can often be remedied with a little nap during the day or some good old fashioned sleep the next night.
For some, however, feeling tired during daytime hours is an everyday experience. It is a proven fact that lack of sleep can prove to be harmful your health, and result in accidents or even death. There are many possible reasons why you experience daytime sleepiness including dietary deficiencies, depression, diabetes, anemia, or thyroid problems, chronic daytime fatigue however it can very likely be caused by a sleep disorder.
Excessive daytime sleepiness is defined as a chronic feeling of overwhelming daytime fatigue. People with EDS experience a consistent feeling of tiredness during the day even if they get sufficient amounts of sleep every night.
Excessive Daytime drowsiness
Trouble waking up in the morning.
Needing or taking frequent naps throughout the day.
Dozing off during unseemly times.
Feelings of irritability or anxiety.
Short Term Memory
Poor school/job performance.
There are a plenty of likely underlying causes of EDS, so it's important to talk to your physician about your symptoms to get treatment for the root cause. In many cases, a sleep disorder may be causing you to feel chronically tired every day.
Here are 3 main sleep disorders that can cause EDS:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep disorder affecting over 20 million adults in the U.S. alone. Apnea literally means as "cessation of breathing" which means that during sleep a person with sleep apnea stops breathing during the night. These cessations in breathing can last up to seconds or minutes at a time and can occur up to hundreds of times a night.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the upper respiratory airways in which the throat muscles/tongue collapse, or enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids hinder airflow. During an apnea event, the brain signals the respiratory system, causing a short arousal, to continue functioning properly. Usually, people may not even realize they have OSA, it is usually a bed partner who notices first. The inadequate sleep quality caused by constant arousals makes excessive daytime sleepiness the most obvious side effect of the sleep disorder.
Narcolepsy is also one of the most common sleep disorders afflicting nearly 1 in 2,000 people. Narcolepsy is an autoimmune neurological disorder identified by the brain's failure to control its sleep/wakefulness cycles. Sleep stages include non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and rapid eye movement sleep (REM). People with regular sleep patterns will have about five 90 minute cycles fluctuating between NREM and REM with about 75% of sleep spent in NREM. During the NREM stages of sleep the body restores and build tissues and bones and strengthen the immune system; in REM sleep, brain activity increases and most people experience dreams. For those with narcolepsy, sleep begins almost immediately in the REM stages, and fragments of REM occur involuntarily during waking hours.
The specific cause of narcolepsy continue to be unclear, however, those with the disease have significantly reduced levels of the neurotransmitter hypocretin, which promotes wakefulness. Those with narcolepsy usually have 90%-95% less hypocretin producing neurons than patients without the disorder.
The most obvious symptom of narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcoleptics feel the need to sleep almost all of the time, they often undergo "sleep attacks" where the intense need to sleep defeats their will to stay awake, and they often fall asleep at inappropriate times.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder defined by an uncontrollable urge to move one's legs (or in rare cases other limbs or parts of the body). Sufferers of RLS feel an irritating sensation or unexplained pain in their legs. Symptoms often demonstrate themselves during periods of restfulness, usually while trying to fall asleep. The pain associated with RLS can fluctuate in severity.
Diagnosing and Treating Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
The most well-known tool used to diagnose EDS is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. The scale is a simple screening mechanism that your physician can use to determine the severity of your sleepiness based on a short, concise questionnaire. The questionnaire asks patients to rate their probability of falling asleep during certain normal activities