Causes of Excessive Sleepiness: Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, RLS 


What is Excessive Sleepiness?

Excessive sleepiness is a

symptom of a deeper health problem rather than a disorder. It is generally not treated independently but it can be a symptom of an underlying cause.

Patients should be on the lookout for symptoms like having trouble staying awake during the day, napping often, and falling asleep while doing tasks. Lack of sleep leads to change or loss of appetite, loss of memory, and high levels of anxiety and irritability.

There could be many like sleeping disorders, mental disorders, medications, pain, restless legs syndrome and Circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

Causes of Excessive Sleep 

  • Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where the upper airway

collapses intermittently for at least 10 seconds during sleep, often happening repeatedly throughout the night. This can be either obstructive, caused by a blockage in the airway, or central, resulting from a failure of the brain to signal the breathing muscles.

Common signs include snoring and gasping for air upon awakening. It’s possible to have sleep apnea without realizing it, relying on feedback from a bed partner. Interrupted breathing disrupts sleep, which can be dangerous in activities like driving or working.

Sleep apnea is associated with various health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and changes in blood composition.

  • Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is associated with the intrusion of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phases into wakefulness, leading to uncontrolled moments of sleep, often referred to as “sleep attacks,” which can occur suddenly.

It involves a sudden loss of muscle control, ranging

from a mild weakening sensation to complete collapse. This phenomenon is linked to muscle immobility, typically experienced during REM sleep. It is usually triggered by emotions or fatigue.

During the sleep phase, narcolepsy can also lead to insomnia, vivid and occasionally unsettling dreams, along with hallucinations and temporary muscle paralysis. These occurrences may manifest as a person is either drifting into sleep or waking up.

Individuals with narcolepsy may face additional challenges, such as depression and difficulties with concentration, attention, or memory.

  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) 

It is a neurological condition characterized by jerking the body parts mainly extremities I.e legs every 20 to 30 seconds throughout the night.  RLS poses a significant risk to overall sleep quality and duration, as individuals with this condition frequently have trouble in getting restful sleep.

Furthermore, an associated condition known as Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) often accompanies RLS. PLMD involves repetitive and involuntary limb movements during sleep, most commonly in the legs.

Together, RLS and PLMD can profoundly impact a person’s ability to attain a deep, uninterrupted sleep, contributing to daytime fatigue and impaired functioning.

  • Insomnia

Insomnia is a prevalent sleep disorder that is

often intertwined with excessive sleepiness. It manifests as persistent difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing deep sleep, despite having adequate opportunities for rest.

Individuals with insomnia often find themselves tossing and turning in bed, struggling to quiet their minds and achieve a state of restful slumber. This chronic sleep deprivation leads to daytime drowsiness and a constant feeling of fatigue.

Insomnia can stem from various causes, including stress, anxiety, medical conditions, or lifestyle factors. The presence of insomnia exacerbates excessive sleepiness, creating a cycle of sleep disturbances.

  • Depression 

Depression can be a significant contributor to excessive sleepiness. Individuals struggling with depression often experience disruptions in their sleep patterns, which can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness.

This can manifest as a constant feeling of fatigue, even after seemingly adequate rest. Sleepiness can exacerbate feelings of sadness and hopelessness, creating a cycle that further impacts mental health. Additionally, depression-related cognitive impairments can lead to difficulties with concentration and memory, further diminishing one’s ability to stay alert during the day.

  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders

It encompasses a range of conditions stemming from disruptions in the body’s internal biological system. This can lead to challenges such as delayed sleep onset, premature awakening, or difficulties in adapting to a regular sleep routine. These disorders may manifest in various degrees of severity, from milder forms like jetlag to more significant and persistent issues.


There is no treatment available but there are some changes that patients can make to help improve their sleeping habits. In addition

, they can combine therapy and medication to help them sleep better

  • Lifestyle Modifications

Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helping in managing sleep patterns.

In addition, ensure that the bedroom is comfortable, cool, dark, and quiet to get a good night’s sleep.

Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, can promote better sleep quality. Furthermore, engaging in regular physical activity during the day can help improve sleep quality.

  •   Behavioral Interventions

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia targets the underlying causes of sleep problems, helping individuals break unhealthy sleep habits and modify unhelpful thought patterns.

Eliminating distracting activities like working or watching TV in bed, transforming the bedroom into a tranquil environment conducive to restful sleep also improves sleep quality.

Another way to improve sleep efficiency is to dedicate time spent in bed only for sleeping. By reducing time in bed, individuals can increase their sleep drive, leading to improved sleep quality and duration.

  • Medical Interventions

One approach involves the use of prescription medications, which may be recommended by a healthcare provider based on the specific underlying causes. These medications can include stimulants, wake-promoting agents, or drugs designed to target specific sleep disorders.

Additionally, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is widely used for sleep apnea. The machine delivers a continuous and controlled stream of air pressure, effectively preventing airway obstruction during sleep. These medical interventions aim to alleviate excessive sleepiness and improve overall sleep quality for individuals facing sleep-related challenges.

  • Healthcare professional

A healthcare professional can conduct a thorough evaluation, taking into account an individual’s medical history, lifestyle, and specific sleep patterns. This enables them to provide a precise diagnosis and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to the unique circumstances of the individual.

Whether it involves implementing lifestyle changes, behavioral interventions, or considering medical options, a healthcare provider’s expertise ensures that the chosen approach aligns with the individual’s needs and maximizes the chances of success.


In conclusion, working with a healthcare provider, individuals can take proactive steps toward improving their sleep quality, overall well-being, and daily functioning.

Prioritize your respiratory and sleep well-being with personalized care at the available across your country.

Remember, the path to better sleep begins with seeking expert advice and taking the necessary steps toward a healthier, more restful life.