In some cases, drowsiness is accompanied by weakness, lethargy, and lack of mental agility. Although there are people who feel drowsy at some point, sleepiness that is persistent and happens at inappropriate periods can indicate a medical problem.
Sleep-wake problems are some of the usual causes of drowsiness. It may include several conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. Likewise, oxygen deprivation and recurring sleep disruption often lead to constant daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and lethargy.
Finally, drowsiness is also associated with more severe health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.
Symptoms of Drowsiness
Apart from extreme sleepiness, drowsiness may be accompanied by other symptoms. It varies according to the underlying cause of the disorder or condition. Some related symptoms that occur with drowsiness include.
- Difficulty in comprehension, memory recall, talking, thinking, reading or writing
- Low energy
- Lethargy and malaise
- Changes in personality, mood, and behavior
Moreover, drowsiness may also be accompanied by symptoms that are related to other health conditions such as anxiety, stress, nerve problem and depression.
Causes of Drowsiness
Several things may cause drowsiness. These reasons vary from mental states, lifestyle choices, and severe medical conditions.
Specific lifestyle practices can lead to increased drowsiness and make you feel extremely sleepy. It includes working long hours or being on the night shift. Most of the time, this drowsiness will subside as the body adapts with the new routine.
Feeling extremely sleepy may also be due to a person’s emotional, mental, and psychological state. For instance, depression significantly increases sleepiness and drowsiness due to high levels of anxiety and stress. Another known cause of drowsiness is boredom. People with these mental conditions are more likely to feel apathetic and fatigued.
Different Medical Conditions
One of the most common medical conditions that cause drowsiness is diabetes. Other conditions can also lead to drowsiness, and it includes cases wherein there is chronic pain, effects on metabolism, and mental state. It includes conditions such as hyponatremia and hypothyroidism.
Some medications such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines cause drowsiness as a side effect. These medications include warnings against operating heavy machinery and driving when using such drugs. If you are experiencing prolonged drowsiness with your medication, talk to your doctor for a change of prescription or dosage.
Drowsiness and excessive sleepiness without a known cause may be a sign of an underlying sleeping disorder. There are different types of these disorders, and each has its own sets of symptoms and effects.
For instance, people with sleep apnea experience a blockage in the upper airways, which leads to snoring and pauses in breathing at night. It causes people to wake up frequently with a choking sound even when in a deep sleep.
Other sleep disorders to consider include restless leg syndrome, delayed sleep phase disorder, and narcolepsy.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Proper diagnosis of the underlying cause of excessive drowsiness and sleepiness is crucial in coming with the best treatment plan.
Your doctor may ask questions regarding your lifestyle habits, medications that you take as well as some things relating to your mental health state. They will study your medical history and order some diagnostic tests if they deem necessary. Diagnostic tests for drowsiness may include the following:
- Polysomnography – this sleep study records the person’s oxygen levels, brain waves, and body movements during sleep. This test also helps in assessing their sleep cycle.
- Electroencephalogram – is another type of noninvasive test that records the electrical activity in the brain.
Treatment Options for Drowsiness
Treatment plans and options for drowsiness depend on its unique causes. In most cases, healthcare professionals do not prescribe highly addictive medications that assist with sleep. Likewise, people with a prescription for sleep medication are not advised to take them every day.
Likewise, general lifestyle adjustments may help you get a better night’s sleep and improve your sleepiness during the day. These changes may include the following:
- Regular exercise
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- Eating a healthier and more balanced diet
- Creating a relaxing sleep environment
- Sticking with a consistent sleep schedule
- A warm bath before bedtime
Some cases of drowsiness can be quickly resolved at home, specifically those caused by lifestyle factors like stress and long working hours. It will help to improve your sleepiness if you will get plenty of rest and if you stay away from distractions. You should also take some effort in finding out the real cause of the problem and take steps in reducing it.
During diagnosis, you will have to prepare to answer some questions to help your doctor identify the cause of your drowsiness. Your health care provider will come up with a treatment plan after discussing the symptoms with you. Some of the questions that may come up during the process include the following:
- Sleeping habits
- How much sleep you get each night
- How often you feel drowsiness during the day
- How often do you fall asleep during the day
Moreover, you will be asked to keep a diary of your sleeping habits for several days. You have to document how long you sleep during the night and how often you feel and your activity when you feel drowsy during the day.
Doctors will seek more specific details to determine the root cause of your health condition. They will probe whether you feel refreshed when you wake up after falling asleep during the day.
If your doctor suspects a psychological cause, then they will refer you to a therapist or a counselor to help you solve your drowsiness problem.
For drowsiness, that is a side-effect of medication; your doctor may simply swap your medicines with a different type or adjust your dosage. Doing this will help drowsiness subside, and you can function normally once again. On the other hand, do not change your dosage or stop taking your prescription medication without consulting your doctor.
If there are no apparent causes for your drowsiness, your doctor will have to order some more tests to come up with the right diagnosis. Some of the tests are:
- Urine test
- Complete blood count
- CT Scan of the head
Your doctor may also schedule a sleep study test to determine whether you have any sleep disorder. With this test, you have to spend the night in the hospital under observation and care of a specialist.
While you are sleeping, your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, brain waves, heart rhythm, and body movements will be monitored for signs of sleep disorders.
What are the normal conditions?
A healthy sleeping pattern is crucial in keeping your daily routine smooth sailing. When you are not feeling drowsy or sleepy, you maintain your agility, mobility, reflexes, and comprehension. The amount of sleep you get may affect your normal functions and cause you to feel drowsiness and fall asleep during the day.
There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by and the rest you need for you to function optimally. The average adult requires less than seven hours of sleep each night. It may be acceptable considering our fast-paced lifestyle today. However, getting six or seven hours of shuteye may lead to chronic sleep deprivation and other sleeping disorders.
The sleeping requirement varies from one person to another. In most cases, healthy adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function their best. Children and teenagers need more than ten hours.
Risks of Having Drowsiness
People with underlying health conditions are more at risk of experiencing drowsiness and excessive sleepiness. It includes sleeping disorders and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
Lifestyle and habits may also affect your propensity for having this condition. For instance, high school and college students experience symptoms of drowsiness, lethargy, and fatigue due to their activities and study load. Some students will fall asleep in school and struggle to stay awake at night to finish homework.
Drowsiness is also a common condition for people who work late hours during the night or have a night shift schedule. People working in Business Contract Outsourcing and remote jobs serve clients in different time zone, thus the need to work in their usual bedtime. This condition gradually eases as these people adjust their body clock to the schedule. Ideally, if you work in different hours, you should also make adjustments in your sleeping environment to ensure uninterrupted sleep during day time.
Older people are also at risk of experiencing drowsiness often due to their irregular sleep cycle. It can be solved by taking naps during the day to complete the nine-hour required amount of sleep.
If you experience life-threating causes of drowsiness, you need to call for immediate medical care. The emergency medical setting is required to evaluate sleepiness caused by the following:
- Medication Overdose
- Concussion or head trauma