Updated: Nov 19, 2020
If you’re like most Americans, you have spent some days feeling tired and sleepy. Adults should get seven to eight hours of sleep each night (NIH), but more than 25% of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, and 10% experience chronic insomnia (cdc.gov).
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can function on a smaller amount of sleep than normal and not have it catch up with you. Even if you don’t keep track of the sleep that you are missing out on, your body does.
Daytime sleepiness could be a result of many different things- from stress to environmental factors, or something more serious. The following are the most common sleep disorders:
Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea- the upper airway is blocked intermittently during sleep
Restless legs syndrome- urge to move the legs, often in response to crawling or tingling sensations.
Narcolepsy- excessive daytime sleepiness, often with sudden muscle weakness, the inability to talk or move upon falling asleep/awakening.
Other medical conditions that cause daytime sleepiness include asthma, heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis among others. Fluctuating work schedules, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can also cause disrupted sleep patterns and daytime sleepiness.
Sleepiness can have serious consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013 (cdc.gov).
In addition, work-related accidents have been identified as a result of a lack of sleep. Sleep is helpful for creating memories and learning information and decreased sleep has been shown to hinder school performance, concentration and memory. Lack of sleep can also negatively impact mood and behavior.
If you want a good night’s sleep, try the following “Sleep Hygiene” tips (yoursleep.aasmnet.org) :
Use the bed for sleep and sex only (don’t pay bills, do work or other activities in bed)
Get into bed only when feeling sleepy.
If you go to bed and are unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, do something relaxing until you become drowsy and then return to bed.
Get out of bed at the same time every morning (even on weekends)
Don’t exercise too close to bedtime
Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Avoid alcohol before bed
Make your bedroom conducive to sleep: keep the temperature on the cooler side, keep your room dark, and minimize distractions such as electronics, cell phones and computers
Avoid large meals late at night.
Take time to wind-down before bed
These tips can help daytime sleepiness caused by insomnia. If your daytime sleepiness is caused by a condition other than insomnia your treatment may be different. Make sure that you visit your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Best wishes for a great night’s sleep!
Dr. Jen Caudle is a Family Doctor & Associate Professor at Rowan University, On-air health expert, and Video creator. Please sign up for her free newsletter and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube for daily health videos.