Top Causes of Daytime Sleepiness and Effective Treatments for Hypersomnia

Excessive daytime sleepiness can severely impact daily functioning. Understanding the common causes and seeking proper treatment is critical to managing hypersomnia symptoms.

Related Topics (Sponsored Ads):

What Leads to Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?

Stressful and struggling to stay awake during the day can stem from various factors. Here are some of the most common causes of hypersomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness:

  • Insufficient or poor quality nighttime sleep – Not getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, restorative sleep regularly can lead to significant daytime fatigue and sleepiness. Poor sleep habits like inconsistent bedtimes, exposure to blue light from screens before bed, uncomfortable sleep environments, and other issues can prevent deep, restorative sleep at night. This lack of quality sleep causes a “sleep debt” that leads to constant drowsiness and nodding off during the daytime.
  • Untreated sleep disorders – Conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, periodic limb movement disorder, and restless legs syndrome lead to severely disrupted nighttime sleep. The shallow, fragmented sleep prevents people with these disorders from getting enough deep, restorative sleep. As a result, they experience debilitating daytime tiredness. These sleep disorders require medical diagnosis through sleep studies and tailored treatment plans.
  • Medication side effects – Some prescription drugs like antidepressants, antihistamines for allergies, and blood pressure medications list daytime drowsiness as a potential side effect. Medications’ timing and dosing schedules may need adjustment under medical guidance to try to offset this excessive sleepiness effect.
  • Mental health issues – Clinical depression, general anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder often co-occur with hypersomnia. The fatigue, lack of motivation, and concentration difficulties associated with mental health disorders disrupt sleep cycles. Treating the underlying mental health condition with therapy and medication may alleviate associated chronic exhaustion and sleepiness.
  • Chronic medical illnesses – Several chronic medical problems like hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis have excessive daytime sleepiness as a common symptom. Managing the chronic illness through lifestyle changes and medication can help improve sleepiness issues.
  • Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders – Conditions like delayed sleep-wake phase disorder mean your body’s internal circadian clock is significantly misaligned with conventional day-night schedules. Trying to follow social norms when your body wants to sleep and wake up much later causes chronic sleep deprivation and consequent daytime drowsiness.

Diagnosing the Cause of Persistent Fatigue

If you consistently feel like you can’t keep your eyes open and have unrefreshing, insufficient sleep at night, it’s essential to seek medical advice. Start by reviewing your sleep habits and making lifestyle adjustments to allow for adequate nightly rest of 7-9 hours. Avoid alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime, eliminate caffeine after midday, establish a consistent 8-hour sleep schedule, limit daytime naps to 20-30 minutes maximum, and engage in regular moderate exercise but not too close to bed. Cut screen time at least 1 hour before bed and establish a calming pre-bed routine like reading or listening to music. If symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness persist after improving sleep hygiene for 2-3 weeks, consult your healthcare provider for further evaluation.

Your doctor will thoroughly review your detailed medical history, sleep habits, medication use, mental health, and family history. Diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:

  • Physical exam and lab tests to check for underlying illness impacting sleep and wakefulness.
  • Comprehensive polysomnography, a sleep study, monitors brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and movement during sleep to diagnose conditions like sleep apnea.
  • The multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) measures how quickly you fall asleep during short daytime nap periods. Indicates excessive sleepiness.
  • Actigraphy, where you continuously wear a sleep monitor device on your wrist for 1-2 weeks to track sleep-wake cycles.
  • EEG and ECG to check for potential neurological issues and heart health factors.
  • Sleep journals where you track sleep duration, bedtime routines, sleep environment, and daily energy levels for 1-2 weeks.

Based on the results of this diagnostic process, your doctor can determine underlying causes and recommend tailored treatment options to relieve hypersomnia and restore daytime wakefulness.

Top Treatment Approaches for Daytime Fatigue

Treatment plans will be based on the specific causes of your excessive daytime sleepiness diagnosed through your medical evaluation. Standard treatment approaches include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Working with a trained psychologist or counselor using CBT techniques to alter unhelpful thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that disrupt sleep-wake cycles. This can improve sleep quality at night and daytime energy.
  • Light therapy – Using a specialized high-intensity light box providing 10,000 lux white light in the mornings. This helps reset your natural circadian rhythm if it’s become misaligned. Time under the light is precisely controlled.
  • Treating underlying physical and mental health conditions – Managing any medical, neurological, or mental health issues causing sleep disruption through appropriate medications, counseling, and lifestyle and diet changes.
  • Positive airway pressure (PAP) devices – PAP machines use a bedside breathing device to increase airflow pressure on inhalation. This is the most common and effective treatment for sleep apnea to help improve nighttime breathing and sleep quality. Strict PAP adherence is critical.
  • Sleep restriction therapy – Restricting time spent in bed to 8 hours daily to consolidate sleep drive and reinforce the body’s circadian sleep-wake cycle timing. This strengthens sleep efficiency.
  • Prescription wakefulness-promoting agents – Stimulant medications like modafinil or armodafinil are sometimes prescribed in narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia to promote alertness and concentration during the day.
  • Scheduled daytime napping – Planned short 20-30 minute naps, once or twice daily, can temporarily boost energy and help offset nighttime sleep deficits. Nap timing and duration should be precisely controlled.
  • Sleep phase adjustment and routine – Gradually shift bed and wake times earlier or later to align better with your natural circadian rhythms, as identified through sleep studies and logs. Maintaining fixed times daily is critical.
  • Improving sleep environment – Upgrades like blackout curtains, cooling the room below 65°F (18°C), white noise machine, and comfortable, supportive mattress and bedding.
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques – Lowering anxiety and mental stress through regular exercise, counseling, yoga, meditation, massage therapy, and other methods can enhance sleep quality.


Excessive daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia significantly impacts daily performance, focus, productivity, and quality of life. The causes range from insufficient sleep and poor habits to severe medical conditions like untreated sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Diagnosing the root cause is essential through comprehensive medical evaluation and possible sleep studies. Based on the reasons for excessive sleepiness determined through testing, personalized treatment may involve improving sleep hygiene, prescription medications and devices, light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, scheduled napping, and more. Paying attention to changes in energy levels and sleep quality is vital. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you regularly experience excessive fatigue and irresistible sleepiness that interferes with regular daily activities. Determining the cause and pursuing proper treatment under medical guidance can help restore daytime wakefulness, performance, mood, and health-related quality of life. With an appropriate, tailored treatment plan, most cases of hypersomnia can be effectively managed or cured.

Related Topics (Sponsored Ads):