Drowsiness-Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Drowsiness is that feeling of being tired or sleepy and at times not able to keep the eyes open. It may also go along with weakness, lethargy as well as lack of mental quickness. While many individuals often feel drowsy at some time or another, tenacious fatigue or sleepiness, particularly at unsuitable times, can be a sign of a sleep disorder or some other medical problem. Here is information on lack of sleep side effects.

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Symptoms of Drowsiness

Drowsiness can also be accompanied by other symptoms that vary due to what the underlying disorder, condition or disease is.

It may also accompany other related signs including:

• Changes in personality, behavior or mood

• Problems with memory, talking, comprehension, thinking, reading or writing

• Fatigue

• Little energy

• Lethargy or malaise

Drowsiness might accompany symptoms which are related to other systems of the body including:

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Stress

In some cases, drowsiness can be a sign or symptom of a life-threatening problem needing immediate evaluation in an emergency room. Seek immediate medical attention or call 911 if you, or someone you are with, have any of these listed symptoms which include:

• Change in alertness or consciousness such as being unresponsive or passing out

• Change in mental status or behavior change that is sudden such as delirium, lethargy, confusion, delusion or hallucinations.

• Seizures or convulsions

• Not able to get warm

• Drowsiness that is severe

• Headache that is severe

• Stiff neck

Causes of drowsiness

Sleep disorders are usually the cause of extreme drowsiness. These can include:

• Sleep apnea

• Narcolepsy

• Insomnia

Sleep apnea is a disorder where the individual stops breathing during the middle of the night, in most cases, several times a night. Oxygen is deprived, as well as sleep constantly disrupted which leads to constant sleepiness in the daytime. It has also been linked with conditions that are more serious such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity.

Some medications are also known to create sleepiness. These can include tranquilizers and sedatives, anti-allergy medication, and pain medications.

Drowsiness may also be caused from common conditions or situations that affect sleep, for instance:

• Grief

• Depression

• Stress

• Traveling across time zones – jetlag

• Irregular work schedule such as shift work

Medications that can affect drowsiness include:

• Anti-convulsants used to treat seizures and epilepsy

• Anti-depressants

• Anti-emetics used to treat nausea

• Sedatives or tranquilizers

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• Antihistamines or other allergy medications

Drowsiness in many cases can be symptoms of a life-threatening or serious condition needing immediate attention. These can include:

• Head trauma or concussion

• Hypernatremia or excessive levels of sodium

• Hyponatremia – low levels of sodium

• Hypothermia

• Medication overdose

Since drowsiness might be caused by a serious disease, any failure to get treatment might result in complications that are serious as well as damage that is permanent. Once the underlying reason for the drowsiness is diagnosed, it is important that the individual follow any plan of treatment that healthcare professionals have designed for them in order to diminish any risk of likely complications including:

• Heart disease

• Depression

• Poor quality of life

• Inability to perform everyday tasks

Treatment for drowsiness

An individual can try to relieve drowsiness by managing the cause of the problem. Try to determine whether the fatigue is due to anxiety, depression, stress or boredom. It could be caused by medication that you are taking.

Often it is best to seek medical help.

First your primary care physician will want to run tests to see exactly what is causing the drowsiness. This may begin with the physician asking questions for a medical history. Some of the questions might include:

• How long has the drowsiness been occurring?

• Do you have any other symptoms?

• How much sleep to you normally get?

• Have you recently started any medication?

• Is your sleep interrupted with frequent wakings?

• Have you been told that you snore loudly?

• Do you fall asleep often, in front of computer or TV, or after lunch?

• Do you wake feeling energized as well as lively?

• Do you feel anxious or depressed?

• Have you suffered a loss recently?

Diagnostic tests the physician might order include:

• Blood test – CBC, blood differential, electrolytes, thyroid hormone levels

• CT scan of head


• Sleep studies

• Urinalysis

It is important to identify the reason for the drowsiness. It could be due to fatigue, stress, pressure of work which can be very simply treated by following relaxation and stress management therapy.

When it is due to some illnesses or medications, your physician will treat the illness or change any medications. Disorders of sleep can be treated with the aid of prescription drugs and self-help measures. Alcohol consumption needs to be reduced since it usually has a negative effect on most parts of the body.

Usually everyone should be aware that almost all the causes of drowsiness can be treated as well as prevented by getting a good night’s sleep for six to seven hours every night. Learn more about how important sleep is to human life.

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