Tag: Narcolepsy

Managing Somnolence
Sleep Better

Understanding and Managing Somnolence

Somnolence is a condition where someone has a strong desire to sleep especially during the day or when it is not their sleeping time. It is a medical term which refers to a state of falling asleep or sleepiness. People who suffer from the condition are not able to resist the urge of sleeping or dozing off.

It originates from the Latin word ‘somnus’ which means sleep. Those who suffer from somnolence exhibit or experience unusually excessive sleepiness during the day.

If you struggle to stay awake during the day or know someone who is always sleepy when they should not be, it could be a sign of somnolence.


What are the causes of somnolence?

Excessive sleepiness is likely to be the problem for someone if he or she is continually experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Finds it difficult to wake up in the morning.
  • Feels sleepy during the day or waking hours.
  • The urge to sleep does not wear off even after a nap.

Somnolence is commonly caused by an underlying sleep disorder because most sleep disorders will disrupt a person’s sleep, usually by shortening the length of sleep or undermining the quality of sleep one gets which leads to drowsiness during the waking hours.

The common causes of somnolence:

Sleeping disorders

1. ObstructiveSleepApnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) leads to difficulty in breathing during sleep which triggers sleep interruptions and the person is forced to wake up many times while sleeping.

The incessant disruption of sleep interferes with the natural sleepcycle and as a result, the person affected does not have sufficient and quality sleep leaving him or her feeling drowsy or sleepy once they wake up.

If you are a snorer, are overweight or suffer from high blood pressure and feel excessively sleepy during the day, this is one of the problems you want to be ruled out by a doctor because it is becoming common in both children and adults.

2. Insomnia

Insomnia is basically a lack of sleep or sufficient sleep deliberately or as a result of another problem or condition. for example, if you decide to dance or read late into the night such that you do not get the required length of sleep, the recommended is 7 to 8 hours, you are likely to suffer from insomnia.

Other causes of insomnia are illnesses, substances such as alcohol and narcotics or even some medications or nicotine which can interfere with your sleep cycle or disrupt sleep. Sleeping during the day and working the night shift is another cause.

Other causes include drug, alcohol, or cigarette use, lack of physical activity, obesity, and the use of certain medications.

3. Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a condition where someone briefly and unwillingly falls asleep during the day anywhere and anytime while sitting, talking, eating, or even driving. It has sometimes been referred to as sleep attacks.

It is commonly accompanied by a sudden loss of muscle control which feels like a slight feeling of weakness or a total body collapse and lasts for seconds or up to a minute and is thought to be triggered by overwhelming emotions or extreme fatigue.

Narcolepsy is usually accompanied by such symptoms as poor concentration, deficiency of attention and memory which cause lethargy from lack of quality sleep and sleepiness.

Diseases or medical conditions

Some medical conditions can lead to sleepiness and drowsiness, as can some treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer.

Conditions such as autoimmune disease, diabetes, underactive thyroid gland, anaemia, stroke, and chronic pain may cause somnolence.

When one exhibits intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, or hopelessness which are typical symptoms of depression, they are affected by sleepiness and drowsiness. Other symptoms include forgetfulness and a loss of concentration and energy. Depression is strongly linked to sleepiness and other sleep problems.


Some medications cause sleepiness and drowsiness that is why it is important that they are prescribed for times when you are less active, usually at night when you should be sleeping.

The following are some medications which cause somnolence:

  • Antidepressants – Sleepiness is one of the main side effects of antidepressants.
  • Benzodiazepines – Anxiolytic or anti-anxiety drugs can cause somnolence.
  • Lithium –This is a bipolar disorder medicine and many users have reported sleepiness.


Hormonal issues in women can cause drowsiness and sleepiness in women, especially when they are pregnant, during their menstrual cycle and after giving birth.

Treatment for Somnolence

Somnolence is treated by tackling the underlying problems which lead to drowsiness and sleepiness when one is not sleeping. The best and immediate treatment is to make lifestyle changes to routine, schedule, and sleeping habits.

There are medicines that can be prescribed to promote wakefulness which can be prescribed when all else fails to make one’s condition better, especially because most of the cause problems can be dealt with without medication. Somnolence treatment is dictated by the cause.

How to deal with somnolence

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule; sleep and wake up at the same time every day to get your internal body clock on a sleeping routine.
  • Engage in relaxing things before going to bed, to prepare your mind and body for sleep such as reading or listening to soothing music in a low volume. It is also important to have the lights off or dimmed.
  • Add more hours to your sleep time. An extra hour or two of sleep can reduce or eliminate excessive wake hours sleepiness.
  • Exercise can do wonders when it comes to sufficient sleep; exercise 3-4 hours before bedtime to help you sleep deeply at night.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleeping so that you are not distracted when it gets to midnight. Do not eat, watch TV, or take work to bed.

There you have it; you know what somnolence is, the causes and how to deal with it. If you suspect that you may be suffering from it, review your lifestyle or visit a doctor to help figure out what the problem is or how to deal with the problem.