Daytime somnolence: what is it and what are the causes?

November 6, 2020 3 mins read
Daytime somnolence: what is it and what are the causes?

Is your morning cup of coffee not enough to get rid of the daytime somnolence you feel? Okay, enough with the fancy terminology. What is daytime somnolence, and what are the causes?

What is daytime somnolence?

Daytime somnolence can also be described as hypersomnia or excessive sleepiness during the day. It’s characterised by overwhelming feelings of drowsiness and a strong desire to sleep. This state of excessive sleepiness can hit you once in a while after a night of drinking, a week of overworking or when you take a medication that causes drowsiness.

Having a lack of energy and feeling tired and sleepy can interfere with your overall quality of life and make it hard to do your best in your work or studies, exercise, be present when with family and friends or perform basic daily tasks like cooking, cleaning and playing with your children.

What causes daytime somnolence?

There are many potential reasons why you feel sleepy all the time. They include:

  • Sleep deprivation or sleep disorders like narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, anaemia and hypothyroidism
  • Depression, anxiety or stress, which can lead to adrenal fatigue
  • Pregnancy
  • Being in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle
  • Eating a large meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner (you’re probably familiar with the post-lunch desire to nap)
  • Having a disrupted circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle)
  • Poor lifestyle and sleep habits like consuming too much caffeine or alcohol and staring at a digital screen before bed or while in bed
  • Nutrient deficiencies, mainly low magnesium, iron, vitamin D, potassium and vitamin B12
  • Using certain drugs like tranquillisers and sleeping pills, or taking an antihistamine like diphenhydramine

How to treat daytime drowsiness?

What can you do to treat your excessive fatigue and sleepiness? You can make a few simple changes to your lifestyle, including:

  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Avoiding eating meals that are too large at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Eating melatonin-rich foods like cherries, strawberries, walnuts, yoghurt, cheese, eggs, fish and red meat during the day and before bed. This will help you sleep better at night and feel less tired during the day.
  • Lowering stress through exercising regularly, talking to someone, taking a bath, meditating, doing yoga, reading and developing a good skincare and self-care routine.
  • Sticking to a consistent bedtime and waking up around the same time every day to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  • Avoiding blue light exposure from digital screens and LED lights 30 minutes to an hour before bed.
  • Do not overexert yourself with exercise if you get fatigued during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle (a week or two before your period) and give your body enough time to rest. You might need to increase your carbohydrate consumption during this phase of your menstrual cycle and stop intermittent fasting if that is something you have included in your lifestyle.

If you’re concerned that your daytime somnolence is being caused by something more serious, speak to your doctor about getting your blood tested for any nutrient deficiencies, such as low iron, that could be making you feel tired. It is important to take iron supplements under medical supervision. You do not want to overdo it or take the wrong types of supplements.

You can also go for a sleep study so that doctors can diagnose if you have any underlying conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy or chronic fatigue syndrome that could be disrupting your sleep and causing your excessive daytime sleepiness.

If you are sick and tired of feeling excessively tired, it might be time to get to the root of the problem, so that you can get your energy back and make the most of your waking hours.