Disorders That Cause Daytime Sleepiness

If you’re always feeling sleepy or tired during the day and can’t seem to get enough rest, there may be an explanation. Certain sleep disorders can be to blame for excessive daytime sleepiness. Disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, circadian rhythm disorder, and insomnia shorten the length of time you are asleep, and also reduce sleep quality. It’s important to get these disorders diagnosed and treated. Untreated sleep disorders leading to daytime sleepiness increase risks of auto accidents, work-related accidents, and poor health in general.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes pauses in breathing for several seconds or even min

utes many times throughout the night. These pauses in breathing cause the body’s oxygen level to be low, and when this happens you may gasp for air, waking you up. Continuously waking up at night interrupts your sleep cycle. Because of these interruptions, you don’t get sufficient sleep and you wake up feeling tired. Many people don’t even know they have OSA and do not realize they are waking up several times throughout the night.


Insomnia is characterized by sleeplessness. It is a disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for the amount of time your body needs (usually about seven to nine hours). The lack of sleep and interruptions to the sleep cycle may cause daytime sleepiness, irritability, and depression. It can last a short period of time or become a long-term condition.  Insomnia can be primary or secondary. Primary insomnia is a problem of its own, not caused by any other health condition. Secondary insomnia is caused by something else, such as medications, other health conditions, pain, anxiety, or substance abuse. Most people with insomnia are aware there is a problem but do not seek help from their doctors.

Circadian rhythm disorder

circadian rhythm
circadian rhythm

Another disorder that keeps us feeling tired is circadian rhythm disorder. Circadian rhythm is the “internal clock” that regulates biological processes over a 24-hour cycle. It determines when we are awake and when we sleep, and normal “clocks” are set by light and dark. But those suffering from circadian rhythm disorder have different sleep and wake times dictated by their “clocks.” These times do not fall into society’s  “normal” sleep times, and they are forced to sleep or wake up against their bodies wishes, leaving them tired the next day. There are multiple causes for this disorder. A common cause is shift work disorder, which affects people such as firefighters and nurses who work overnight or rotating shifts. Jet lag or changes in time zone also lead to excessive sleepiness during the day. Other causes for circadian rhythm disorder are pregnancy, certain medications, medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, mental health disorders, and any changes in routine.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes extreme sleepiness during the day, causing the sufferer to unwillingly and suddenly fall asleep at any point of the day, no matter what he or she is doing. This could be dangerous because someone with this disorder can fall asleep even while driving. Most of the time narcolepsy is caused by a dysfunction in the part of the brain that causes us to stay awake. Although there is no known cure, it is treatable, so it’s important to seek help from your doctor.

Being tired or sleepy throughout your day does not necessarily mean you have a sleep disorder. But if you’re excessively tired every day and you cannot figure out why, a sleep disorder could be to blame. The sleepiness that these disorders cause can be dangerous and not good for your health, so make sure to talk to your doctor about diagnosis and proper treatment.


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6 thoughts on “Disorders That Cause Daytime Sleepiness

  1. Mrs Terri Osborne Reply

    I am wide awake in the evenings and don’t get tired till around 5 am. I then sleep well and find it hard to wake up and get up, hence I loose everyday. I go to bed earlier and can’t sleep,disturbing my husband as I am so restless. So I stay up till I know I will sleep. On several occasions I don’t go to bed at all, I do quiet housework. By around 3 to 4 pm I a very tired and have to go for a sleep, then I can’t wake up again!!!! I force myself then after an hour or so, bingo I wide awake bed around 4 to 5 am. Driving me crazy, no life, no daytimes, it’s like my body and brain on permanent nights. As it’s winter I rarely see daylight. Can you advise please.

    • Karin Møller Pedersen Reply

      Dear Terri Osborne
      I am not a sleep specialist, but I suffer from some of the same symptoms. I have been diagnosed with delayed sleep phase syndrome and some years ago (10-15 years) when it was a lot worse something called idiopatic hypersomnia was also suggested, because I would sleep up to 17-20 hours a day never seeing the daylight. You need to see a sleep specialist and get as much sunlight as you can during daytime if possible and stay away from tv and computer in the evening, because that will wake up your brain. I know how difficult your situation is but I Think there is hope. Find a very good sleep doctor ( neurologist). I wish you all the Best. Karin

  2. Sammie10121390 Reply

    I have always slept in excess of 13 to 15 hours a day if not more. Since I was 7 all Ive done is sleep. I go to bed at 8:30 pm every night and dont wake up till 1 or 2 the follow afternoon. Ive begged doctors to help me. Ive been on anti depressants that do nothing. I am literally sleeping my life away to the point I cant work… Ive lost a husband and 2 boyfriends in the last 7 years because they thought I was just lazy and didnt want to accomplish anything in my life. But i sleep all night and the can get up and like say do dishes or laundry or just cook supper and by the time im done im ready to go back to sleep and sleep another 4 to 5 hours just to repeat the same cycle….. I need help with this…. I need a doctor that will help me figure out what is going on with me….

  3. James Livingston Reply

    I can have a couple regular days of 10 to 12 hours and then I’ll do 15 or 16 and then go back to some times 10 hours of sleep I’m on blood pressure medicine Paxil for depression and high blood pressure medicine don’t drink smoke . I have Crohn’s disease which I found out recently. I quit sugar altogether 2 weeks ago and I’m still sleeping too much. I do enjoy the sleep but is taking up so much of my life that I can’t be the producer that I was before this started about 5 years ago when I was 64.

  4. Kaquoli Meli Reno Reply

    I have been diagnosed with both sleep apnia and idiopathic hypersomenia and then nothing! I am so tired of being tired! I don’t have any energy and it’s driving me crazy! I need help but can’t find any! There are times I truly wish God would call me home because I feel so horribly tired! Because of no energy I’v gained too many pounds! The doctor gave me a medicen to perk me up and I lost 60 pounds but then he took it away and I’m back to NO ENERGY!

    • Jennifer Kramer Reply

      To Kaquoli Meli Reno:

      I am in a similar predicament. I have been diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and more. I have been to virtually every type of specialist that could possibly have the ability to help, and no one can.

      I have even applied for disability twice did to my inability to function on any “normal” level at all but have been denied since I could pass the ridiculously simple medical exam the government provides. I don’t WANT to be disabled…I am an honor student in graduate school. My education, my children, my friendships, and I have suffered tremendously due to whatever is causing this. I’ve been going through this for close to 15 years now, and it’s only gotten worse over time.

      Since doctors are unable to help me, I have started doing serious research into this, and I’ll give you the titles of the resources I’ve come across that seem to make more sense and seem to fit my symptoms to a tee. Research adrenal fatigue. There’s a book I read with the same name, and it really seems like it could be an issue. There’s another book called “The Elimination Diet” that is very enlightening as well! A movie on Netflix called “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” by Joe Cross really started making me think! Another, even newer one on Netflix that REALLY changed my perspective on food is called “What the Health.” You can check out “GMO OMG” also on Netflix (likely on other outlets as well).

      I haven’t gotten started with my new way of eating yet, so I can’t tell you that it’s the miracle we’re hoping for as the aforementioned sources promise. But you sound about as desperate as me, so I knew I had to share. I’ll be seeing a nutritionist again in a week to get started on this intelligently, as I also have IBS and don’t want to make that any worse than it already is just by trying to get healthy! I hope you get this. I hope you check into these resources and that they can help you. I hope my life improves also, because I too have wished for God to just take me home as I’m certainly not much use to Him like this! Take care and best wishes to you!!

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