Why People Doze Off During the Day.. Daytime Drowsiness Dissected

sleepA commentator wrote in and asked what the difference was between a person with narcolepsy and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea(OSA). Well, quite a bit..although people suffering from these conditions would manifest as extreme drowsiness during daytime.


Daytime Snooze...normal or pathological?

Lets get some facts straight. The most common cause of extreme daytime drowsiness is insufficient sleep. Whether its due to a late social night out, a late football game or recent matrimonial bliss, if one does not get the required amount of beauty sleep (which varies from person to person, 6-8 hours generally), the next day will reflect on the previous night’s activities.

That aside, if we look at those who are blessed with sufficient hours for sleep at night, but yet show excessive daytime drowsiness, many health practitioners would want to entertain 2 important causes. One of them is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea(OSA), which was covered by an earlier post here. People with this condition have been known to doze off during an important Board meeting (not out of boredom, for sure) or crashed their car while falling asleep at the wheel. This recently-recognised medical condition has become more and more prominent in recent years as its awareness increases. Thanks to new techniques, this condition has become eminently curable.

The other condition causing prominent daytime drowsiness is narcolepsy. This little-known condition manifests in 5 different ways:

  • excessive daytime drowsiness,
  • cataplexy (loss of muscle function in response to emotional extremes),
  • sleep paralysis (temporary inability to talk or move on waking up),
  • hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dreams while sleeping or waking up) and
  • automatic behaviour (continuing normal fuctions while sleeping, like sleepwalking).

Apart from the above sleep disorders, we should not forget also that some medications can cause drowsiness. A good example is antihistamines, often used to combat allergies or motion sickness. There are some diseases that can cause sleepiness as well, in particular hypothyroidism and hyponatremia.

If you do have such sleeping disorders, go through this quick checklist to see if you are having any of these maladies- click here.

7 responses

  1. Dear Doc,

    Thank you for the nice writeup on difference between the two.


  2. Suddha Satta Ray | Reply

    Please suggest some cures.
    Doctor2008 says: Check out the links in the posting

  3. What is wrong with me Doc?i always feel like somethings are crawling on my body like when an insect crawls on your skin,always causing itches which makes me scratch my body but still i wont see a thing like an insect was there or something.

    Doctor2008: What you have is medically known as “pruritus”, for which there are many causes. You still need a live doctor to work you through.

  4. Help, I constantly doze off while sitting, reading, computer work, and even driving. I am having trouble with extreme mood swings, hot flashes, stress excess (even simple things set it off), do not sleep very good, have sleep apnea (use c-pap) and constantly have trouble with fogginess and recent memory. So, So tired..can not concentrate on even simple stuff……..what is causing this?
    Doctor2008: Consult your doctor and take it up from there..

  5. Thank you for writing about this subject. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy when I was 15, but started feeling the manifestations when I was 13. When I was younger I experienced all, but now I only have 2. There was also a question about me having hypothyroidism…. Could these issues be connected?
    Doctor2008: There’s a possibility of that..do consult your doctor.

  6. Read Full Report | Reply

    We stumbled over here by a different website and thought I may as well check things
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    your web page repeatedly.

  7. I thought I was alone, sleep tortures me especially after lunch, I feel so heavy in my eyes I can not do computer work or even pay attention to my lecturer, I can not even be remembering what they are teaching or discussing at that moment.

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