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Do you experience excessive sleepiness? Here's why and what it does to you

You must take excessive sleepiness seriously because it can indicate a serious health problem. @Shutterstock

Excessive sleepiness is a disorder that can indicate an underlying medical condition. It can also increase your risk of certain diseases. Read on to know more.

Everyone feels tired and sleepy. It is normal. But if you are sleepy all the time, despite a good night's sleep, it is a problem. Excessive sleepiness is the feeling of drowsiness during the day. It should not be confused with fatigue, which is more about extreme tiredness due to low energy levels. At times, this can get so bad that it can interfere with your normal functioning and make you less productive. It can also affect your relationships. It usually indicates an underlying health condition that needs urgent attention.

According to the European Society of Cardiology, healthy elderly people who regularly report feeling sleepy during the day have a significantly higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. The study was published in Stroke. Researchers say that people who reported excessive sleepiness during the day exhibited a 49 per cent increase in risk of death from cardiovascular problems compared to those who did not report sleepiness.

Excessive sleepiness is not a disorder in itself but a side-effect of another health disorder. You need to consult a doctor and find out the reason behind this condition. You will get relief once the identified medical problem is resolved.

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CAUSES OF EXCESSIVE SLEEPINESS

There are many health-related reasons behind this condition. Of course, going on a TV binge or partying all night can also make you sleepy during the day. But it cannot be counted as this condition. This is because such sleepiness is temporary and goes away once you sleep. Sometimes, you may experience excessive sleepiness due to infections, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders and metabolic abnormalities. Parkinson's disease and some psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression can also make you very sleepy.

Let us look at some of the most common causes of excessive sleepiness and treatment options for these conditions.

Sleep apnoea

If you suffer from this condition, you stop and start breathing repeatedly throughout the night. If you suffer from sleep apnoea, you may also be prone to snoring. This is a serious condition and requires medical attention. Because you have a fitful sleep at night, you feel drowsy throughout the day. Sleep apnoea can also cause hypertension, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and obesity.

Treatment options: One of the most common treatments is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This therapy employs a small bedside machine that pumps air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over your nose and mouth.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes an irresistible urge to move your legs. This condition can cause social embarrassment. Though the reason behind this condition is not known yet, some experts believe the brain's basal ganglia, the region that controls movement, is to blame. RLS makes it difficult to sleep peacefully due to which you might be sleepy all the time.

Treatment options: Get a leg massage or a warm bath before bedtime. Exercising early in the day may help you fall asleep at night. If the problem is severe, consult a doctor. He may recommend iron supplements and also anti-seizure drugs.

Narcolepsy

This is a rare neurological disorder. In this condition, the brain is unable to regulate the sleep-wake cycle properly. You may feel excessive sleepiness during the day even if you have a good night's sleep. At times, it can get so bad that you might even fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or during a meal.

Treatment options: This condition can be treated with some lifestyle changes. Take short naps at regular intervals. Sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Exercises will also help.

Depression

Excessive sleepiness could also be due to depression. If a person is depressed, he or she might sleep more and less than normal. It can also cause excessive sleepiness during the day.

Treatment options: This requires a combination of medications, counselling and lifestyle changes. Your doctor might recommend anti-depressant drugs if required.

HEALTH RISKS OF EXCESSIVE SLEEPING

It is very important to excessive sleepiness seriously because it can indicate a serious health problem. Let us look at a few disorders that can emerge from this condition.

Diabetes

Experts say that excessive sleepiness can increase the risk for diabetes. According to a study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, men who have excessive sleepiness may have eating disorders, be obese and face a greater risk of developing diabetes. A report in Diabetologia also says that excessive daytime sleepiness increased the risk of diabetes by 56 per cent. A longer daytime nap of 60 minutes or more increased the risk by 46 per cent. However, a shorter nap (60 mins or less per day) did not increase the risk of diabetes. Researchers said there was no effect of napping for up to about 40 minutes per day, after which risk began to increase sharply.

Alzheimer's

According to a new study at American Academy of Sleep Medicine, older adults who experience excessive sleepiness during the day may have more brain atrophy than expected for their age, particularly in areas of the brain that are more susceptible to aging and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers say that such people had significantly lower cognitive scores and more medical comorbidities. The research was published in the journal Sleep.

Heart diseases

Adults with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) who experience excessive sleepiness while awake are at a greater risk for cardiovascular diseases than those without excessive daytime sleepiness, according to new research published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Death

Excessive sleepiness can be fatal. Besides increasing the risk of diseases, it can also cause accidents and injuries. If you are driving and you feel drowsy, just pull over and try to overcome this feeling. Have a coffee, nap a little. Once you feel fresh, you can continue driving. But you need to consult a doctor about this problem.

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