What Is Drowsiness?
Feeling abnormally sleepy or tired during the day is
commonly known as drowsiness. Drowsiness may lead to additional symptoms, such
as forgetfulness or falling asleep at inappropriate times.
What Are the Causes of Drowsiness?
A variety of things may cause drowsiness. These can range
from mental states and lifestyle choices to serious medical conditions.
Certain lifestyle choices may lead to increased drowsiness,
such as working very long hours or switching to a night shift. In most cases,
your drowsiness will reduce as your body adapts to your new schedule.
Drowsiness can also be a result of your mental, emotional,
or psychological state
Depression can greatly increase drowsiness, as can high
levels of anxiety or stress. Boredom is another known cause of drowsiness. If
you are experiencing any of these mental conditions, you’re also likely to feel
fatigued and suffer from apathy.
Some medical conditions can cause drowsiness. The most
common is diabetes. Other conditions that may lead to drowsiness include those
that cause chronic pain or affect your metabolism, such as hyponatremia (when
the level of sodium in your blood is too low), or hypothyroidism. Finally,
infectious mononucleosis (Mono) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are other
well-known causes of drowsiness.
Many medications, particularly antihistamines,
tranquilizers, and sleeping pills, list drowsiness as a possible side effect.
These medications carry a warning against driving or operating machinery while consuming
Talk to your doctor if you suffer from prolonged drowsiness
due to your medications. They may prescribe an alternative or adjust your
Excessive drowsiness without a known cause can be a sign of
a sleeping disorder. There’s a range of sleeping disorders, and each has its
own unique effects.
Sleep apnea is a disorder where a blockage in your upper
airways creates pauses in your breathing throughout the night, causing you to
wake up frequently with a choking sound. Other sleep disorders include
narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and delayed sleep phase disorder.
How Is Drowsiness Treated?
Treatment of your drowsiness will depend on its cause.
Some drowsiness can be treated at home, especially if it’s
the result of life choices, like working longer hours, or a mental state such
In these cases, it may help to get plenty of rest and to
distract yourself. It’s also important to investigate what’s causing the
problem, such as stress or anxiety, and take steps to reduce the feeling.
During your appointment, your doctor will try to identify
the cause of your drowsiness by discussing the symptom with you. They may ask
about how well you sleep, and whether you wake up frequently in the night.
Be prepared to answer questions about:
- your sleeping habits
- the amount of sleep you get
- if you snore
- how often you fall asleep during the day
- how often you feel drowsy during the day
Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary of your sleeping
habits for a few days, documenting how long you sleep at night and what you’re
doing when you feel drowsy in the day. They may also ask for specific details,
such as if you actually fall asleep in the day and whether you wake up feeling
If the doctor suspects that the cause is psychological, they
may refer you to a counselor or therapist to help you find a solution.
Drowsiness that’s a side effect of medication is often curable.
Your doctor may swap the medication for a different type or change your dosage
until the drowsiness subsides. Never change your dosage or stop a medication
without first talking to your doctor.
If no cause for your drowsiness is apparent, you may need to
undergo some tests. These are usually noninvasive and painless. Your doctor
could request a full blood count, urine tests, an electroencephalogram (EEG), or a computerized
tomography (CT) scan.
If your doctor suspects that you may have sleep apnea, restless
leg syndrome, or another sleep disorder, they may schedule a sleep study test.
For this test, you’ll spend the night in the hospital or a sleep center under
the observation and care of a sleep specialist. Your blood pressure, heart
rate, breathing, and brain waves will be monitored throughout the night for any
signs of a sleep disorder.
When to Seek Emergency Care
You should seek medical attention if you begin to feel
drowsy after you:
- start a new medication
- take an overdose of medication
- sustain a head injury
- become exposed to the cold
How Can Drowsiness Be Prevented?
Often, a regular amount of sleep each night can prevent
drowsiness. Most adults require about eight hours of sleep to feel fully
refreshed. Some people may need more, especially those with medical conditions
or a particularly active lifestyle.
Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you experience
any changes in your mood, signs of depression, or uncontrollable feelings of
stress and anxiety.
What Is the Outlook for Untreated Drowsiness?
You may find that drowsiness goes away naturally as your
body becomes used to a new schedule or as you become less stressed, depressed,
However, if the drowsiness is due to a medical problem or
sleep disorder, it’s unlikely to get better on its own. In fact, the drowsiness
is likely to worsen without proper treatment. Some people manage to live with
drowsiness. However, it may limit your ability to work, drive, and operate