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March 2, 2015
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

It’s common to feel tired sometimes, but your sleepiness shouldn’t adversely affect your well-being.

Current estimates are that as many as 20 percent of the population suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).  Are you one of them?

Excessive sleepiness is the leading complaint of patients who visit sleep clinics and undergo sleep testing.  Patients who raise this complaint feel drowsy and sluggish most days and experience a powerful drive to nap during the daytime.  These symptoms often interfere with work, school, activities, and relationships.

The symptoms of EDS can often be mistaken for other similar symptoms like fatigue or depression, and it’s instructive to define the differences.  Fatigue is characterized by low energy and the need to physically rest.  So a patient can be fatigued without necessarily being sleepy.  Depression is often associated with a reduced desire to do normal activities, even enjoyable ones.

Overall, excessive sleepiness is not a disorder in itself—it is a serious symptom that can have many different causes including:

If you are frequently tired, not working effectively,  making mistakes, having lapses in judgment or wakefulness, or feeling unable to enjoy or fully participate in  activities, don’t just “push through.” Rather, you should look into solutions to your disorder because poor sleep and resulting excessive sleepiness can have drastic, long-term effects on your health–it is tied to cardiovascular problems and weight gain as well as how you think and feel.

Additionally, excessive sleepiness puts the safety of yourself and others at risk, since motor vehicle accidents and other dangerous errors are often caused by sleepiness.

If you suspect that you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, discuss your conditions with your physician.

Tim Kay is the manager of the Sleep Lab at Harrington HealthCare System and a registered polysomnographic technician with more than 15 years of clinical experience in the field. He can be reached at tkay@harringtonhospital.org.