Daytime sleepiness is a common thread across America. In fact, it’s the most reported symptom for people seeking a sleep consultation. Why is this such an issue and what does it mean for our overall health and safety?
When we think of falling asleep during the day, narcolepsy (uncontrollable episodes of sleep) comes to most people’s minds. We’ve seen movies that poke fun at it, but narcolepsy is no laughing matter. Thankfully, it’s actually not as common as you would think; affecting about 1 in 2,000 in the U.S.
But daytime sleepiness is a symptom in every major sleep disorder including sleep apnea and insomnia and is not only a risk to the affected person mentally and physically, but those around them on the highway or at the jobsite.
There’s a difference between daytime sleepiness and say, chronic fatigue or depression. Although those conditions cause low energy and the need to rest, daytime sleepiness is the need to sleep when your body clock should be in awake mode. Some causes of daytime sleepiness are poor sleep habits, obstructive sleep apnea, side effects from certain medications and possibly other underlying medical conditions. If your doctor has helped you rule out other health conditions, a consultation with a sleep specialist should be the next step. They can help you determine what tests would be appropriate and develop a treatment plan so you can get back on track living a full life.
If you are frequently tired, make simple mistakes, have lapses in judgment or feel unable to enjoy or participate in your normal activities, don't just push through it, hoping it will get better. If you've been excessively tired for a long time, it may feel normal to you, but poor sleep and resulting sleepiness can have serious, long-term effects on your health like heart problems, depression and weight gain. Not only that, you can put yourself and others at risk; auto accidents and other dangerous errors are often caused by sleepiness (Amtrak accidents in the last several years have also been directly connected to sleep disorders). Talk to your doctor and your sleep specialist so you can take steps to improve your health, and get you on the road to sleeping and feeling better.