Daytime Sleepiness: Symptoms, Treatments


Daytime sleepiness is a condition when you’re having an increased pressure to fall asleep during typical wake hours. It is a common complaint of many adults and children. According to the statistics, roughly 20 percent of the population can be classified as having Excessive Sleepiness (sometimes referred to as Excessive Daytime Sleepiness). We all feel tired sometimes, but do you ever feel so tired during the day that all you can think about is going home and crawling into bed? It seems like no matter how much sleep you get, you’re still exhausted in the morning and you may wonder if you’ll ever feel rested.


There could be various reasons that are responsible for daytime sleepiness. Some may have something to do with your lifestyle, while others could be medical.


  • Working or using electronic device at night
  • Lacking enough sleep
  • Having poor sleeping schedule and habits
  • Consuming cigarettes or alcohol
  • Lacking physical activities
  • Being overweight

Medical Conditions

Sometimes, daytime sleepiness may be the result of you taking drugs and medications (e.g. sedating antihistamines, some pain relievers, benzodiazepines) that cause a list of side effects. But it’s worth mentioning that certain medical condition can also be the one to blame. Possible conditions are listed below:

  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Post-traumatic brain injury syndrome
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • Depression
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Hypothermia
  • Head injury
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Anemia
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia
  • Hypothyroidism


If you’re troubled with daytime sleepiness, you may find it hard to concentrate, keeping your head up or keeping your eyes open. The symptoms below are some of the common symptoms that people often report.

  • Forgetfulness
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Disconnected thoughts
  • Low motivation
  • Inability to sleep at night
  • Loss of appetite
  • Need for frequent naps
  • Easy irritability
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Daydreaming
  • Frequent yawning
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Feeling abnormally sleepy during the day
  • Having to take naps throughout the day
  • Missing exits or road signs when driving


To diagnosis someone with daytime sleepiness, doctors may order several tests which will determine whether the individual has primary (originating in the brain) or secondary (originating as a result of another disease) sleepiness. These tests may include polysomnography, subjective scales such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Stanford Sleepiness Scale, as well as objective tests like the multiple sleep latency test. First, doctors will look for other obvious sleep disorders that could be causing sleepiness so that they can determine if there are treatable medical conditions present. Basically, if you’ve got no other underlying diseases, you’ll be given a diagnosis based on your symptoms that have been present for three consecutive months.

FYI, the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) and Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT) are performed during the daytime after a nighttime sleep study in a sleep center. You will be asked to try to fall asleep (in the MSLT) or stay awake (in the MWT).

Tips on Treatment

Treatment will depend greatly on the underlying cause of sleepiness and whether it is a primary or secondary concern. You may try making some concrete changes in your lifestyle, or you can visit a sleeping specialist who may suggest relaxation treatments or psychotherapy. To put it simply, there are multiple choices if you face up to it and make efforts.  

Lifestyle Changes

  • Keeping distractions (e.g. electronic screens and blue light) out of bed for at least 2 hours before going to bed.
  • Getting adequate nighttime sleep.
  • Engaging in more physical activities during the day.
  • Improving your sleep schedule (e.g. set up a consistent going-to-bed and waking-up time, even in the weekends).
  • Listening to podcasts that help you to switch off.
  • Gradually moving to an earlier bedtime.
  • Not going to bed until you’re sleepy or napping late in the day.

If you find the tips listed above aren’t helping, you may also resort to medications. There are some medications proven to be effective in coping with daytime sleepiness.

Possible Medications

According to recent studies, caffeine is the most commonly applied drug that proves to be crucial in treating daytime sleepiness. Caffeine can be either prescribed or be bought in your local drugstore. Other medications that are available either ways include: Vivarin, NoDoz, Cafcit and Lucidex. If you turn to a sleep specialist for help, he/she may prescribe you modafinil, dextroamphetamine or armodafinil (These three drugs are prescribed only). Even if you get some OTC drugs to tackle your sleeping problems, you’re recommended to consult your doctor first for more details.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.