Excessive sleepiness seems to be increasing among people, according to a report by the National Sleep Foundation. In recent a poll conducted by the organization, 20% of Americans reported to have under six hours of sleep on average. This figure was just 13% in 2001. “This is basically because of deliberate sleep limitation”, says Lisa Shives, MD, founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, III., and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleepiness.
Causes of Sleepiness
There are several causes for sleepiness – jet lag, rotating shifts, or working extra hours to meet the schedule or a deadline. Working against the body’s natural rhythm can have a negative effect on sleeping patterns. An individual may be troubled by sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy. Shift work disorder, a sleep disorder commonly seen in people who are working in rotating shifts, is characterized by excessive sleepiness while working in the night and insomnia whey they try to sleep during the day time.
David G. Davila, MD, a National Sleep Foundation spokesman and board member who practices sleep medicine in Little Rock, remarks that excessive sleepiness has become a very common disorder among the population. He adds that many people try to cope with sleepiness by having extra stimulants, like coffee, but they end up getting secondary insomnia due to excessive coffee intake.
Adults need an average of six to seven hours of sleep to have proper rest. Some people may need more or less time to feel adequately rested. If a person is able to sleep but feels very sleepy all the time, it might be due to a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders affect the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It may result in sleep walking or prompt what is known as ‘sleep attacks’. During sleep attacks, a person falls asleep uncontrollably during the day.
Symptoms of sleep disorders
Some of the common symptoms of sleep disorder include:
- Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
- Regularly waking up in between many times and finding it difficult to fall asleep again
- Sleepiness during the day, falling asleep at inappropriate times of the day
- Loud snoring, gasping, snorting, choking sounds, or stopping breathing for short periods during sleep
- Creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in your legs or arms, especially when you are falling asleep
- Jerking of legs and arms during sleep
- Headaches after waking up
- Vivid, dream-like experience while falling asleep
- Sleep walking or any other unusual behaviors during sleep
- Sudden muscle weakness when you are angry, fearful, or laughing
- Inability to move the body when one wakes up
People with any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
Major sleep disorders
Some of the common sleep disorders include:
- Insomnia – It refers to the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. This makes people feel exhausted after waking up.
- Sleep apnea – This disorder is characterized by loud snoring, gasping, choking, pauses in breathing, and sudden awakenings. People with this disorder stop their breathing, which interferes with a restful sleep. It can decrease the oxygen supply to different parts of the body for a few seconds, and increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack
- Restless leg syndrome – People with this syndrome have an irresistible urge to move the legs while sleeping or lying down. They may also have creeping, crawling, burning or painful sensations in the leg. Periodic limb movement disorder is a similar disorder in which jerking movements, or twitching of the legs or arms during sleep makes the person feel exhausted and tired after the sleep.
- Parasomnias – Unusual behavious, like sleepwalking, sleep-talking, head-banging, and night terrors, affect the quality of sleep. In a condition called rapid eye movement disorder, people may kick or wave their arms as if in a response to a dream. This condition often affects older men and is linked to increased risk of conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
- Narcolepsy – This condition is characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day and having sleep attacks, which causes people to fall asleep uncontrollably during the day. Muscle weakness and emotional excitement is also seen to be linked to this form of sleepiness. Other symptoms of this condition are hallucinations and vivid dreams while falling asleep or waking up.
- If an individual has difficulty sleeping, he or she may have a sleep disorder.
- Sleep disorders should be taken seriously, and if you think you have one of the symptoms for a specific sleep disorder, you should contact your healthcare professional.