What is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness? Sleepiness vs. Fatigue

April 6, 2022 | Casper Editorial Team
excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime fatigue excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime fatigue excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime fatigue

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Sleep has a huge impact on our everyday lives. Yet, our State of Sleep in America study found that 1 in 3 adults describe their sleep the previous night as “fair” or “poor.” 

Poor sleep or lack of sleep can make you feel drowsy and miserable during the day. However, the problem can be even worse for those with excessive daytime sleepiness.

If you suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness or daytime fatigue, tiredness and lack of energy during work, school, or other activities it can seriously affect your day-to-day life. 

In this article, we’ll explain the difference between daytime fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as the symptoms and causes of both. We’ll also share tips on getting better sleep and when to see a sleep specialist for help.

What Is Daytime Fatigue?

Fatigue is a continuous feeling of exhaustion that, according to Mayo Clinic, reduces your concentration, motivation, and energy. It can impact not only your body but also your emotional well-being. 

As a Cleveland Clinic article explains, fatigue is different from just feeling sleepy. While sleepiness is usually a short-term thing that you can improve with more sleep, fatigue can last a long time and make you feel drained to the point where it disrupts your everyday life. 

Daytime fatigue is a constant feeling of exhaustion that impacts concentration, motivation, and energy.

Symptoms of Daytime Fatigue

According to Medical News Today, below are some common symptoms of fatigue. Note that these are just a few, and this isn’t an all-encompassing list. Speak to a medical professional for more information.

  • Lack of energy during the day
  • Lack of motivation
  • Aching muscles
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Bloating and abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Acting irritable
  • Blurry vision

Causes of Daytime Fatigue

There are many different causes of fatigue. Lifestyle factors, like a lack of exercise or little to no sleep, can be culprits. Certain medications can also contribute to daytime fatigue. However, fatigue can also be a symptom of other underlying medical conditions.

Here are several possible causes of daytime fatigue (note: that this isn’t an exhaustive list): 

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Lack of exercise or too much exercise
  • Unhealthy eating
  • Mental health issues
  • Endocrine and metabolic issues
  • Medications
  • Heart and lung conditions
  • Sleep problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • COVID-19
  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia

Fatigue can also be a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome, which is long-term, overwhelming fatigue that does not improve with rest. It can last for months or years and negatively affects your quality of life. There is no known cause for chronic fatigue syndrome yet, but you can treat symptoms with the help of a physician. 

How to Combat Daytime Fatigue

There are several things you can do to try to help reduce daytime fatigue:

  • Eat healthier — Eating less junk food, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-sugar foods may help increase energy levels. If you’re hungry late into the evening, opt for healthy late-night snacks like hummus or bananas.
  • Exercise regularly — Regularly moving your body may improve sleep and reduce daytime fatigue.
  • Practice mindfulness — One study found that mindfulness training helped multiple sclerosis patients reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Get better sleep — Aim to improve sleep hygiene by getting 8 hours of sleep, avoiding screens around bedtime, and saying no to caffeine and alcohol 4 hours before bed. 

If your efforts to reduce fatigue aren’t working, it’s a good idea to pay a visit to your doctor. 

Daytime Fatigue vs. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Many people experiencing low energy levels may wonder if they’re going through fatigue or excessive daytime sleepiness. So, what is excessive daytime sleepiness, and what’s the difference?

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a symptom where one feels very drowsy and finds it hard to stay awake during the day.

Mayo Clinic explains that Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can be a symptom of multiple conditions. People with EDS find it difficult to stay awake and feel sleepy during the daytime. They are often drowsy and may even fall asleep at inappropriate times. Sleepiness can be stronger when sitting down or doing a repetitive task. 

EDS can be a symptom of hypersomnia, which is a condition that makes a person feel very tired during the day, even if they get what should be enough sleep.

Fatigue, on the other hand, has to do with a lack of energy and sometimes feeling unable to fall asleep despite being tired. It can be physical and/or mental. 

However, it is possible to experience sleepiness and fatigue at the same time. 

Fatigue vs. sleepiness

EDS affects 10–20% of people and should be taken very seriously. It can increase the dangers of falls, road and workplace accidents, problems with mood and relationships, and decreased productivity and performance. Drowsy driving caused an estimated 91,000 police-reported crashes in 2017 alone — so constant drowsiness during the day can be a big safety concern.

Symptoms of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Here are possible symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness, according to Sleep Foundation and Mayo Clinic

  • Difficulty staying awake or alert
  • Memory issues
  • Acting irritable
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Slow reaction times
  • Episodes of accidentally falling asleep
  • Sleep attacks (falling asleep without feeling sleepy before)
  • Sleeping but finding it unrefreshing
  • Taking several naps in the same day
  • Trouble waking up

Causes of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness is commonly caused by a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep. This may be due to:

  • Sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, or idiopathic hypersomnia
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Long work hours
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Obesity
  • Other health conditions like schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol
  • Medications

How to Combat Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

EDS can get in the way of work, school, and home life. If a lack of sleep causes your EDS, you can keep the following sleep tips in mind to try to improve your nightly rest:

  • Get eight hours of sleep each night 
  • Leave the phone out of bed 
  • Get regular exercise 
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed 
  • Try to avoid naps in the afternoon
  • Don’t work late into the night

However, if excessive daytime sleepiness is significantly impacting your life and the above tips aren’t working, you should visit your doctor.

When to Get in Touch With a Doctor

Sleepiness or fatigue can warrant a doctor’s visit. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you feel like sleepiness or fatigue is having a negative impact on your everyday life, especially since there’s a chance they could indicate an underlying condition. 

Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend better sleep hygiene practices, prescribe medication, or help you pin down an underlying cause. 

They may also refer you to a sleep specialist to diagnose your condition and come up with a treatment plan. If your sleepiness or fatigue is caused by a sleep disorder like narcolepsy or sleep apnea, it’s especially important to work with an expert to get proper treatment.

How to Get Better Sleep

Sleep has a huge impact on our everyday lives. If you are seeking to get better sleep, you can try these additional tactics to fall asleep fast and increase deep sleep below. 

  • Create a consistent bedtime routine. Whether it’s a warm shower before bed or a sleep playlist, sticking with a relaxing, 30- to 60-minute routine may help your body wind down.
  • Set the right temperature. The ideal sleep temperature for adults is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Listen to pink or white noise. Some find these soothing sounds that sound a bit like TV static or nature sounds like rain and waterfalls helpful when trying to fall asleep.
  • Try a sleep mask. If you have street lamps peeking through your window or your partner likes to read with a light on, you can try blocking out light with a comfortable sleep mask.  
  • Do a body scan. With this relaxation technique, you mindfully focus on each section of your body until it feels completely relaxed. 
A bedroom at 9 pm, with the temperature set to 62 degrees, a sleep mask on the bed, and headphones playing white noise.

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