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Sleep Disorders

Sleepy All the Time

03/04/2011

Question:

I am sleepy all the time. I can sleep all day get up fix dinner and be ready for bed sleep all night. It not filling tird. It sleepy my eyes feels like bolders are holding them down. What`s wrong how can I fix it.

Answer:

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be a very frustrating and potentially dangerous problem. It can be due to a large variety of causes and truly needs to be evaluated by your physician, who may decide to refer you to a Sleep Specialist.

Most commonly, daytime sleepiness can be caused by inadequate night time sleep. The average person needs an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per night to perform optimally and to feel fully rested. If you are not getting adequate sleep regularly you may be creating a "sleep debt" that can lead to excessive sleepiness. Unfortunately a couple of nights of prolonged sleep (for example, on the weekends) can not compensate for chronic sleep deprivation.

Other causes of excessive daytime sleepiness may include the use of certain medications and the presence of certain medical conditions. Some medications that commonly cause sleepiness include narcotics (pain killers), benzodiazepines (sedatives, often used for anxiety) and antihistamines (often used for allergies). Daytime sleepiness may also be a symptom of a chronic medical diseases, such as thyroid disorders, or psychiatric disease, such as depression.

Primary sleep disorders need to also be considered and some of the more common ones that might cause sleepiness include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnolence, periodic limb movements in sleep and a delayed sleep phase (usually resulting in inadequate sleep time). Shift work is also a risk factor for sleepiness, especially if you are working nights.

The most common sleep disorder causing excessive daytime sleepiness is OSA. OSA is a disorder where you have partial or complete closure of your airway when you sleep causing you to abruptly arouse to open your airway and to take another breath. This results in frequently interrupted and fragmented sleep. Risk factors for OSA include snoring, being overweight, having anatomic problems in the airway (such as large tonsils), being male gender, increasing age, having difficult-to-control hypertension, and having a family history of sleep apnea.

If you are getting the appropriate amount of sleep, then I recommend that you discuss your symptoms with your physician. To determine the cause of your problems, a thorough history and physical examination will be needed. A referral to a Sleep Specialist may be necessary to help sort out whether further testing is needed. Once a history and physical examination have been performed, the Sleep Specialist will decide if evaluation by a sleep study is necessary to further evaluate the cause. Best of Luck!

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Response by:

Aneesa M Das, MD Aneesa M Das, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University