Daytime Sleepiness – do you suffer?

Tiredness during the day

What causes daytime sleepiness?

How do you avoid it?

There are many reasons for experiencing tiredness during the day. When daytime sleepiness happens only occasionally it’s easy to push through knowing that after a decent sleep you’ll be ready to go again.

Sadly for many of us though, daytime sleepiness is something that we have just learned to live with. But it doesn’t need to be this way. This post will outline some of the reasons and also some solutions for daytime sleepiness.

Having trouble sleeping?

When you go to sleep do you fall asleep quickly and then wake during the night only to find that you can’t get back to sleep again? Or do you lay awake for hours and then miss one of the important stages of sleep?

If you are not getting enough deep sleep, or if you are suffering from broken sleep then it’s almost impossible to wake up refreshed and excited to begin the day.  This is especially true if you’ve had a few bad nights in a row.

Reasons you're tired during the day

If you’re suffering tiredness during the day there can be many reasons. Feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day can come from many areas of our lives. The good news is, many reasons can be prevented and even avoided altogether. You may suffer from one of the factors below or you might experience a combination of these factors.

  • sleep apnea
  • a snoring partner
  • restless sleep
  • shift worker sleep disorder
  • insomnia and/or depression
  • jet lag
  • too much bright light before bed such as from a mobile phone, iPad or computer screen
  • anxiety insomnia
  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • too much caffeine
  • illness
  • a young baby or a sick child
  • stress
  • excitement over an upcoming event such as an overseas holiday or wedding
  • the wrong bed

We can control many of the above situations. Some take more discipline than others and some are out of our control entirely. But there’s a lot that we can do to give ourselves the best chance of having a peaceful night’s sleep and reducing or even eliminating daytime sleepiness.

Let’s look at a few of the main ones.

A snoring partner - could it be sleep apnea?

To anyone who has ever slept next to a snoring person, you will know exactly how painful, punishing and tiring this can be. Did I say painful? (Sorry husband). But if you are nodding your head and sighing as you read this then I am speaking to you.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted while sleeping. If untreated someone with sleep apnea will stop breathing during their sleep. This can occur literally hundreds of times each night. Carrying excess weight is the most common cause of this condition.

Sleep apnea is a very serious condition that requires diagnosis from a medical professional. To cover this topic properly requires a separate blog post on its’ own. Read more here about sleep apnea.

Prior to my husband having his sleep apnea machine, I would be lucky to get more than 30 minutes of unbroken sleep each night. I would drag myself out of bed every morning and my daytime sleepiness had me walking around like a zombie.

This was due to him gasping for air multiple times every few minutes. We would both wake up tired and grumpy in the morning. It didn’t seem to matter if we went to bed an hour earlier, most nights it was just never enough. 

He was always conscious of waking me so when he did start to drift off to sleep the minute he would start snoring he would wake himself up and then the cycle would begin again. The best thing that we ever did for our relationship was to invest in a CPAP machine.

Restless sleep

I’ve spoken to many people over the years who comment that they are tired during the day. Many can’t work out why. They are fit, healthy and eat well. They are not consuming alcohol or caffeine before bed and yet they wake up tired and suffer from daytime sleepiness.

Often after eliminating many of the reasons listed here it comes down to the fact that they are not getting a good night’s sleep because they just aren’t comfortable. 

It’s important that you have a good quality mattress that isn’t past its due by date. Also never underestimate your pillow. Your choice of pillow will have a huge bearing on how many zzz’s you get overnight. Most of us wake up multiple times per night though it’s for such a minute period of time that we don’t even remember. When you are not comfortable you can be doing this literally hundreds of times per night.

Also is the room at the right temperature. Sleep studies show that it is better to sleep in a cooler room than a warm one. According to this Sleep Deeply blog post the ideal temperature for sleep is apparently 17 – 21 degrees Celcius.

Shift work sleep disorder

Most of us know one. One of those ‘salt of the earth’ type people who put others needs before themselves. They often work in the health profession, the police or ambulance service or in our Defence Forces. These people are not just shift workers, they often work rotating rosters so their hours are constantly changing. 

I have two close family members and also a friend, who have been doing this for over 25 years. They often walk around in a permanent state of sleep debt. No sooner is their body clock getting used to one sleep cycle then their shift changes and they are back to daytime sleepiness. They get use to their current shift and then the cycle continues again. Shift work takes a massive toll on ones health and many shift workers are in a constant state of sleep debt. It really does take a toll on your sleep health. 

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted while sleeping. If untreated someone with sleep apnea will stop breathing during their sleep. This can occur literally hundreds of times each night. Carrying excess weight is the most common cause of this condition.

Sleep apnea is a very serious condition and to cover this topic properly would require a separate blog post on its’ own. Read more here about sleep apnea.

Stages of sleep

Whatever the reason, broken sleep is often the reason that you don’t experience a full sleep cycle. A full sleep cycle is where you experience, REM sleep, light sleep and also deep sleep. Missing out on either of these cycles can have a detrimental impact on your ability to function at an optimum level. When our bodies move naturally through each sleep stage we enjoy the health benefits provided from each cycle.

Conclusion

Fortunately, many sleep problems only affect us on a short term basis. Unfortunately, some of you reading this will be affected by circumstances that are often a little harder to control; such as a partner snoring or you may be a shift worker. Unless you feel like changing jobs or partners you’re stuck with it, or them……….I’ll leave that to you to ponder perhaps 🙂