Medical and Brain Conditions Causing Excessive Sleepiness

It is normal to feel sluggish from time to time, especially at the end of a hard day. However, if you find yourself in this state too often, it can be challenging to stick with a schedule or complete the entire list of daily tasks. Below you’ll find the root of your sleepiness, plus ways to address it.

A few factors can interfere with your energy levels, such as sleep deprivation and disturbed night sleep.
However, excessive sleepiness may hint at a sleep disorder and even an underlying health issue.


Unfortunately, excessive sleepiness can carry a certain stigma (laziness), which makes it hard to seek specialised help to overcome the issue.It starts with an ever-present feeling of burn-out, for days and weeks, and it rapidly escalates in missed deadlines, late meetings, undone chores, and so on.

A 2019 study published in Nature Communications states that 10-20% of people encounter this problem up to a point.
Depending on the nature of your symptoms, you will come across different approaches and treatments that might fit you.

Lack of sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) states that adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night to feel rested and ready for a new day. According to statistics, nearly 20% of adults neglect this aspect, which leads to sleep deprivation. Feeling tired may be due to an imbalance in your schedule caused by:

  • extreme or irregular work hours.
  • personal responsibilities
  • a hidden medical condition

Generally, some adjustments to lifestyle will fix your sleep. However, always listen to your gut if it signifies an underlying medical problem.


Insomnia stops the brain from engaging in a regular sleep cycle. People living with insomnia may drop dead-tired, and still are unable to fall sleep. Insomnia may hit at different levels, for example:

  • waking up repeatedly during the night
  • impossibility to fall asleep
  • getting up at early hours and can’t fall asleep back

Insomnia may be hard to spot. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remarked that usually, doctors diagnose insomnia by excluding other possible sleeping issues.

Ways to Address Insomnia

Effective treatment may comprise different therapies, such as:

  • antidepressants
  • behavioural therapy that develops proper sleeping patterns
  • sleeping pills

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep disorder that may impair breathing during sleep. If you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you should consider asking your doctor about it. The two main types of sleep apnea are:

  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) takes place when the brain won’t alert the muscles to drive respiration for a short time.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) represents a partial or complete blockage in the airflow due to collapsed tissue in the back of the throat.

During the night, apnea episodes may take place repeatedly, representing a severe impediment in reaching the deep restful sleep. The first indicator of sleep apnea is loud snoring, and sudden wakening, feeling out of breath. The phenomenon leaves the body lacking the proper amounts of oxygen, which can lead in time to irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and other conditions.


  • Oral appliances: similar to an orthodontic appliance, have a role in placing the lower jaw slightly forward and prevent the collapse of the soft tissue in the back of the throat.
  • Positive airway pressure device: it has the shape of a breathing mask and provides pressurized air to prevent the throat from collapsing during sleep.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that causes an unstoppable urge to move the legs, mainly because of an unpleasant sensation while they are at rest. It takes place both while sleeping and wakefulness, but the continuous pressure to move and the spams give a hard time for anyone trying to sleep. Therefore, the person that deals with the condition will feel worn up and the next day.
Doctors believe that abnormalities in the neurotransmitter dopamine are the reason for restless legs syndrome.


Mild symptoms can be handled with a few changes in the lifestyle, such as exercising, giving up on smoking and alcohol and adopting a sleep hygiene (no devices emitting blue light before bed hour).

People that face severe RLS may request medication that adjusts the amounts of iron and dopamine in the organism.


Narcolepsy is a sleep and neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to manage the sleep-wake cycles. The patient will often find himself taking a nap in the most inappropriate times, and encounter extreme drowsiness during the day.
People that received this diagnose, usually face additional effects, such as:

  • sleep disruptions
  • hallucinations
  • sleep paralysis


Doctors usually prescribe stimulant medication that will help the patient stay awake for longer time, while sleep paralysis and hallucinations can be managed with antidepressants. Taking a few naps during the day is also recommended for regulating sleep.


The presence of depression may add sleep difficulties, as somnolence, oversleeping, and unresting sleep. On the other side, poor quality of sleep may contribute to feeling depressed. A general lack of energy and exhaustion are specific traits of this condition. Other signs that indicate the onset of depression are :

  • problems to remember details
  • concentrating issues
  • overwhelming sadness
  • hopelessness
  • anxiety


Psychotherapy is an excellent tool for this, along with proper medication. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the psychotherapies that proved to yield positive results are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy. You must consult a doctor in case the sleep isn’t enough to wake you with freshness. If you or someone you know is struggling with these, or other mental health issues, BetterHelp is a great option.

Specific medications

Some prescriptions may be part of excessive sleepiness as a side effect. These are:

  • high blood pressure pills
  • antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • antidepressants
  • anxiety medication

It is necessary to address the side effects at the beginning of medication. If they include heavy sleepiness, you may ask the doctor to reduce the dosage or change the prescription.

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