Sleepiness – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Can Sleepiness Really Be A Problem?

It is not uncommon for someone to feel sleepy during the day. But, what if this feeling of sleepiness became so frequent that it impedes one from performing his/her daily chores and routines? Such a dysfunction is termed as “problem sleepiness” or excessive sleepiness syndrome and becomes quite dangerous in situations where the person is driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery.

Factors Contributing To Problem Sleepiness

It’s not just inadequate sleep that produces excessive sleepiness syndrome. There are other factors that tend to influence problem sleepiness in a person. They are discussed below.

Sleep-Wake Cycle: Your body is naturally predisposed to experiencing sleepiness during two periods. Primarily, it is in the late night hours between midnight and 7a.m. The other period when you might feel sleepy is during mid-day, specifically between 1pm and 4pm. If you tend to stay awake during both these periods, then the chances of you falling asleep in undesired hours rise drastically.

Sleep Disorders: The aspect of going to sleep is majorly controlled by the release of special chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, and inhibited release of these chemicals will result in sleep disorders.

Therefore, disorders such as sleep apnea (interrupted sleep due to blocked nasal passage), narcolepsy (excessive sleepiness in the day despite proper rest at night), insomnia (inability to sleep in the night) and even restless leg syndrome can also contribute to problem sleepiness in a person.

Medical Conditions And Substance Influence: Disruptions in sleep pattern can be caused by different substances such as alcohol, nicotine (found in cigarettes and chewing tobacco) and caffeine. Furthermore, if you suffer from certain health complications like rheumatoid arthritis, heart congestion, asthma or any other chronic disorder for that matter, then they too can affect the sleep cycle.

Symptoms Of Sleepiness

Individuals suffering from problem sleepiness will exhibit a majority of the symptoms mentioned below.

•    falling asleep while driving
•    find it difficult to stay awake when inactive
•    consistently finding it difficult to sleep in the night or feeling like you have not slept for ages when awake
•    reduced concentration and attention span thus affecting performance when working or studying
•    finding it hard to remember or recall information
•    a marked sluggishness in responses
•    feeling the desire to take naps more often
•    inability to control your emotions and
•    others constantly pointing out your overtly sleepy nature to you

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Excessive Sleepiness Syndrome

Doctors and health professionals use different testing models to discern if it is actually problem sleepiness or just a case of occasional daytime sleepiness owing to tiredness and fatigue. The Epworth sleepiness scale is employed by doctors and psychiatrists alike to quantify the extent of the problem by letting the individual answer a questionnaire. MSLT or Multiple Sleep Latency Test is another model used for testing sleepiness quotient.

While in the past, prescription drugs like amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, methamphetamine, lisdexamphetamine and pemoline were used to treat the problem, the use of such psycho-stimulants have become rare nowadays. Instead, drugs like modafinil or sodium oxibate have taken their place.

However, medications can only treat various symptoms; they cannot fully eradicate the condition on their own. That is why general practitioners also try to educate the individual on preventive techniques to increase the treatment efficacy. For instance, your doctor will advise you to cut down on alcohol, caffeine and/or nicotine. Even work cycle changes seem to produce positive results and are therefore suggested by medical experts.

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