Read below about daytime sleepiness, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your daytime sleepiness from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Daytime Sleepiness Symptoms

It is 2 a.m.; you're awake. Night after night, you are up, witness to the wee hours of the morning. Despite your best efforts, you just can't sleep. Insomnia strikes again.

Not sleeping at night would explain why you struggle to stay awake during the day. But what if you are sleeping well through the night but still don't feel rested? Your daytime grogginess might be a symptom of an underlying disorder.

Daytime fatigue could be due to something as benign (and easily resolvable) as poor sleep hygiene. Daytime fatigue could also be due to something as serious (and less easily resolvable) as a traumatic brain injury.

Depending on the cause of your daytime sleepiness symptoms, you may also experience:

Let's explore some of the more common conditions that can cause daytime sleepiness symptoms.

Daytime Sleepiness Causes Overview

Poor sleep hygiene:

  • Sleeping habits affect the quality of your sleep. Quality sleep is essential to avoiding daytime sleepiness. When you have habits that interfere with your quality of sleep, you are practicing poor sleep hygiene.

Sleep deprivation:

  • Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Inadequate sleep negatively impacts your executive function – the ability to process and respond to information. Inadequate sleep also increases your risk for diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and Alzheimer's.

Insomnia:

  • Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up too early. This combination of inadequate sleep and poor sleep quality can cause chronic daytime sleepiness. Resolving insomnia is not always as simple as improving your sleeping habits.

Hormones:

  • Hormones may be to blame for daytime sluggishness. Whether due to hypothyroidism, premenstrual syndrome, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, hormonal fluctuations can interfere with both your quality and quantity of sleep.

Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia have similar symptoms, but they are different disorders. The exact cause of these disorders is not fully understood, but a level of fatigue which interferes with day-to-day activities characterizes both.

Sleep apnea

  • If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your airway becomes blocked as your tongue and other parts of your upper airway relax with sleep. When your airway becomes blocked, you stop breathing, if only for a couple of seconds. During these seconds, you wake up, even though you may not remember waking - interrupting your normal sleep cycle. When your sleep cycle is interrupted, you miss out on the refreshing benefits of sleep and may wake up feeling like you have not slept at all, and feel sleepy throughout the day.

Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder:

  • Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder sound similar, but are different disorders. With restless leg syndrome, your legs are still, but the sensation you feel in your legs keeps you awake. If you have periodic limb movement disorder, the involuntary movement of your legs may repeatedly wake you from sleep. Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are similar in that they both result in poor sleep, leaving you feeling like you are dragging through your day.

Post traumatic brain injury syndrome:

  • Sleep cycles are altered after a traumatic brain injury. As the injury heals, sleep cycles start to reestablish themselves. As the quality of sleep improves, you experience increasing levels of alertness, and daytime sleepiness begins to resolve.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Daytime Sleepiness

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced daytime sleepiness. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Sleep Deprived

    Sleep is very important to health and adults should get a minimum of 7 hours each night. Sleep deprivation causes daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and headaches.

    Resolves with adequate sleep.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, daytime sleepiness, sleep duration less than 7 hours, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with sleep deprived:
    sleep duration less than 7 hours, daytime sleepiness
    Symptoms that never occur with sleep deprived:
    nausea or vomiting, being severely ill, fever, unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Insomnia Disorder

    Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that prevents one from falling asleep, staying asleep, or a combination of both.

    Condition is treatable with medication and behavior changes.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, mild headache, insomnia
    Symptoms that always occur with insomnia disorder:
    trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Idiopathic Hypersomnia

    Idiopathic hypersomnia is a disorder with no known cause that causes excessive sleepiness.

    This is often a chronic condition but medication and lifestyle improvements may be beneficial

    Rarity:
    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    impaired social or occupational functioning, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability, daytime sleepiness
    Symptoms that always occur with idiopathic hypersomnia:
    daytime sleepiness, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that never occur with idiopathic hypersomnia:
    sleep duration less than 7 hours, nausea or vomiting, spontaneous loss of muscle control
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Daytime Sleepiness Checker

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  5. 5.Depression

    Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with depression:
    depressed mood
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Obstructive Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is a disorder in which the upper airway is obstructed during sleep, which causes poor sleep quality and frequent awakening.

    Sleep apnea is a lifelong condition but symptoms can be well managed with treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, daytime sleepiness, trouble sleeping, sore throat
    Symptoms that always occur with obstructive sleep apnea:
    snoring or apneas
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disease that causes unexplained fatigue that does not improve with rest.

    Chronic fatigue syndrome is a life-long condition.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, difficulty concentrating, severe fatigue, trouble sleeping, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic fatigue syndrome:
    fatigue, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic fatigue syndrome:
    mild fatigue, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Daytime Sleepiness Treatments and Relief

Seek medical care if you have daytime sleepiness symptoms and:

  • A recent head injury
  • A sudden onset of severe headache.
  • Chest pain.
  • The sleepiness is not improving by improving your sleep hygiene.

Practice good sleep hygiene.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid alcohol late at night.
  • Avoid long-term use of sleeping pills.
  • Stop using screens (cell phone, laptop, tablet) two to three hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid afternoon and evening naps of more than 30 minutes.
  • Exercise regularly, preferably in the morning or afternoon.
  • Avoid eating in bed.

The benefits of sleep go above and beyond getting enough rest to feel more awake during the day, but poor sleep has long-term detrimental effects on your health and well-being.

FAQs About Daytime Sleepiness

Here are some frequently asked questions about daytime sleepiness.

Can depression cause daytime sleepiness?

Yes. Depression and other medical conditions, including other psychiatric conditions like anxiety, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder can cause daytime sleepiness. Other causes of daytime sleepiness include insufficient sleep — the most common cause. Less commonly, sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, and certain genetic neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis can cause daytime sleepiness.

What medications can affect sleepiness?

Antianxiety drugs like benzodiazepines, over-the-counter drugs like first generation (H1) antihistamines, anti-seizure drugs, sedating antidepressants, and antipsychotics can all cause sleepiness. Additionally, substances like alcoho, narcoticsl or stimulant withdrawal (e.g. caffeine, cocaine) can also cause sleepiness.

How can you measure daytime sleepiness?

Your physician may administer a series of questions, called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which measures your chance of falling asleep during routine daily tasks. In some cases, the physician may order polysomnography (sleep study) which measures brain activity and can show the efficiency of your sleep and how deprived of sleep you are (if you are deprived of sleep).

Why I am always tired after eating?

There are multiple theories explaining the existence of sleepiness after eating a large meal. Theories include large meals activating the parasympathetic nervous system which causes sleepiness. Insulin released to process the sugar may also increase the amount of tryptophan in the brain.

What does persistent daytime sleepiness mean?

Persistent daytime sleepiness most commonly means that you aren't getting adequate sleep. However, a lack of high quality nighttime sleep may come from a variety of causes beyond simple sleep deprivation. Insomnia, depression, anxiety, or other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may also play a role. If you are getting adequate quality and quantity of sleep, you may have a medical disorder that causes increased sleepiness during the daytime.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Daytime Sleepiness

  • Q.Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Q.Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Q.Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?
  • Q.What is your body mass?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our daytime sleepiness symptom checker to find out more.

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Daytime Sleepiness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced daytime sleepiness have also experienced:

    • 23% Fatigue
    • 4% Nausea
    • 3% Muscle Aches
  • People who have experienced daytime sleepiness were most often matched with:

    • 50% Insomnia Disorder
    • 50% Idiopathic Hypersomnia
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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