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Sleep Disorders

Sleepy During the Day

06/10/2008

Question:

I get six to seven hours of sleep a night. When I wake up I feel well rested and ready for the day, but within two hours I feel extremely sleepy. I can sleep for at least four hours if I take a nap. At night is when I seem to "wake up.” I usually have to take a sleep aid in order to make myself sleepy again. I`ve tried forcing myself to stay awake during the day in order to get myself on a routine, but, after many attempts, I always fail. I have also noticed my eyesight getting worse. Could that be why I am so sleepy?

Answer:

Sleeping 7 hours per night is the average of what people do. But some need more (up to 9-10 hours) and some need less (4-5 hours). The variability in sleep need is determined by our genes, age, and daytime habits. Younger people need more, and those who nap during the day need less sleep at night. From your description, 6-7 hours don’t seem enough for you and you may be compensating by napping during the day.

I understand that you feel your sleep is refreshing, therefore you may assume that your night sleep is adequate. This is not exactly true. Most of us can function fairly well when we are active, or in exciting situations despite significant sleep deprivation. The effects of lack of sleep will show mostly when we are passive, or if the situation is “boring”.

Inadequate sleep may result from short sleep duration, and from many other causes like:

You mention that you use a sleep aid. Sleep aids work well for acute insomnia, but once the problem has been there for more than a few weeks, they are no longer effective, causing the problem to perpetuate. On the other hand sleeping a good 8 hours a night for a long time (say a week) may prove to work better in replenishing your sleep need. While this may not be an option for people in demanding social and work environments, remember that you may enjoy work and life better during fewer waking hours when you are not struggling to keep from falling asleep during the day. So, try turning the computer, the TV, and the lights off earlier in the evening when it gets naturally dark outside, and exchanging a novel for a dream.

If you do manage to extend your sleep, and daytime sleepiness persists, then any of the other items on the above list may be playing a role. A consultation with s sleep specialist would be the right thing to do.

For additional information regarding sleep and sleep disorders, visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. This website also contains a list of sleep centers across the country so you can locate one near you if need it. Good luck and stay well.

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Ziad  Shaman, MD Ziad Shaman, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University