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Excessive daytime sleepiness


Sleep is not just a time when the mind and body shut down. Sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is feeling sleepy, tired or fatigued during day light hours, when most people are awake and alert. This should not be confused with excessive tiredness with which we all suffer from time to time

What causes excessive daytime sleepiness?

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by the following:

  • Insufficient sleep-not getting enough sleep for the appropriate age
  • Sleep disorders
    • Obstructive sleep apnea-People with this condition have multiple short periods of absent or decreased breathing while sleeping
    • Narcolepsy- People with this condition are very sleepy in the daytime and sometimes fall asleep suddenly during normal activities
    • Insomnia- People with this condition have trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • Poor quality sleep
    • Shift work-Shift work is challenging because it requires people to wake and sleep in a pattern that is out of sync with the body’s biological clock.
    • Schedule changes-the most common being time zine changes
    • Medication and drugs-Sedation is a common side effect of many medications. Alcohol and illicit substances might also cause drowsiness. Other drugs that make people stay awake for long periods of time, such as cocaine or amphetamines, will also likely cause sleepiness after their effects wear off.
    • Sleeping in women-Some women find it harder to sleep during certain phases of their menstrual cycle; pregnancy brings hormonal and temperature changes, as well as discomfort that makes sleep difficult; feeding an infant at night fragments sleep; and the dropping estrogen levels associated with menopause can lead to hot flashes that disrupt sleep as well.
    • Medical conditions-these are less common causes of excessive daytime sleepiness and include concussions, metabolic and respiratory diseases and brain conditions like Parkinson’s.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

Your behaviors during the day, and especially before bedtime, can have a major impact on your sleep. They can promote healthy sleep or contribute to sleeplessness. Sleep hygiene refers to a series of healthy sleep habits that can improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Completing a two-week sleep diary can help you understand how your routines affect your sleep

Should I see a doctor?

Visit a doctor if you are:

  • Often sleepy during the daytime
  • Sleepiness interferes with normal daily activities

Will I need tests?

There are many different tests, but you might not need any. It depends on your age, other symptoms, and individual situation.

A daily sleep log for 1 to 2 weeks, where you keep track of how you sleep each night might be requested for.

How is excessive daytime sleepiness treated?

This depends on the cause of the excessive daytime sleepiness.

  • Lifestyle changes – These can include changing your work schedule, taking naps, losing weight, or avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Devices you wear at night – These can help people with obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Medicines – These can help you stay awake in the daytime or sleep better at night.
  • Surgery – A few people with obstructive sleep apnea have surgery to treat it.


The content on the Nairobi ENT website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.


  1. Alshahrani, Sultan M., et al. “Impact of shift work on sleep and daytime performance among health care professionals.” Saudi Medical Journal8 (2017): 846-851.
  2. GRANT, Crystal L., et al. “The impact of meal timing on performance, sleepiness, gastric upset, and hunger during simulated night shift.” Industrial Health(2017): 2017-0047.
  3. Force, A.O.S.A.T, and American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Clinical guideline for the evaluation, management and long-term care of obstructive sleep apnea in adults.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 5.3 (2009): 263.

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