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Sleepiness: Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2023

What is the treatment ?

Sleepiness is primarily a result of inadequate sleep. Not getting enough sleep can sometimes be a choice but it can also arise due to sleeping disorders like restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy. The treatment of sleepiness depends on its cause. If getting inadequate sleep is voluntary, then the treatment includes getting at least eight hours of sound sleep every day. Sometimes, many medicines taken for varies purposes can cause drowsiness or sleepiness. If it is due to the intake of a particular medicine, then consult your doctor who might consider changing that particular medicine. The treatment firstly involves following a proper lifestyle which includes going to bed early and getting at least eight hours of sound sleep every day and eliminating the consumption of alcohol and caffeine. For the treatment of drowsiness, the doctor can suggest medicines like stimulants, antidepressants, and sodium oxybate (for sleepiness associated with narcolepsy). Each disorder has to be treated in a specific manner. For example, in cases of sleep apnea, the treatment of continuous positive airway pressure is used. Thus, its very important to identify the cause of sleepiness and then the condition can be treated appropriately. Sleepiness is a problem now because most people do not get adequate sleep.

Somnolence is state where a person has a strong and excessive desire for sleep and has a persistent feeling of drowsiness. It is often associated with lethargy and laziness, and might go unchecked and undiagnosed as it is a medical condition, the causes of which are several. Excessive sleepiness is inconvenient and interferes with daily functioning and work of a person. It is also associated with difficulty in concentration and focus, driving and keeping control over emotions. Sleepiness has been known to be the cause of numerous road accidents, poor performance in work and school along with rage and anxiety issues. Lethargy in itself could be extremely uncalled for if a person has an active life. A person may be having the issue of excessive sleepiness if he/she consistently does not feel like they got enough sleep, have trouble focusing or staying awake while watching TV or reading, have problems remembering things, etc.

The causes of a person having the desire for excessive sleepiness could be many. Sleep-wake cycles are the two in a day- one is from midnight to 7 am and the other is in the afternoon from 1 pm to 4 pm. People tend to feel most sleepy during these time frames. Another cause would be if a person is getting inadequate sleep. The average time a human being needs to sleep if 7-8 hours, it may vary a bit from person to person. If a person loses just one night of sleep, ‘sleep debt’ gets carried forward which is completed only when sufficient amount of slumber has been obtained. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, etc could also be a cause of a person suffering from sleepiness. Lifestyle also plays a great part. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and caffeine intake can severely affect sleep cycles, causing other ailments and illnesses as well.

How is the treatment done?

A person could try to get enough sleep by shifting their schedules just a bit or go for 30 minute naps each day. Exercising regularly and intake of proper diet is also extremely beneficial. Cutting out on caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs would also help immensely as they interfere with healthy sleep cycles. If seeking medical care, a doctor might prescribe a person to antidepressants and stimulants which might help relieve the stress and help a person obtain more relaxed sleep. The treatment for sleepiness can only be done when the underlying cause has been detected properly. This underlying cause needs to be addressed in the treatment. The treatment includes making changes in the sleep schedule, routines, habits, stress management, and sleeping environment. Getting adequate sleep is the primary focus of any treatment for sleepiness. Medicines are usually recommended for disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Working with a sleep specialist is an important part of the treatment. Medications like Modafinil (Provigil) and armodafinil (Nuvigil) are used to treat the condition. These medications change the action of particular chemicals in the brain and show a monoaminergic effects that alter neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Other stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) are also used. The doctor and the patient both must communicate properly with each other in order for the treatment to be effective. The test results must be absolutely free from errors especially during the detection stage of the cause. One should also avoid the consumption of long-term sleeping pills and should get daily exercise while receiving a treatment for sleepiness.

Who is eligible for the treatment?(When is the treatment done ?)

Anyone who is suffering from the symptoms of sleepiness should seek help from a doctor. Some people may be experiencing the symptoms due to their lifestyle in which case the treatment is following a healthy lifestyle. While others may be suffering from an underlying disease who need the proper treatment for that disease. A doctor should be consulted when along with sleepiness one is experiencing chest pain and severe headache.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Some people may be experiencing the symptoms of sleepiness because of their lifestyle. The treatment for them is following a healthy lifestyle and they do not need any medication.

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Are there any Side Effects?

The best treatment is following a healthy lifestyle and following a good sleep regime. This treatment has no side effects. In fact, it makes the conditions better on the whole. But some doctors may prescribe sleeping pills in cases of extreme cases where the patient is unable to get any sleep at night. But sleeping pills do have certain side effects. Instead of helping, these pills can increase the daytime drowsiness or sleepiness. They can also cause dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, and changes in the appetite of the patient. Stimulants also have side effects like extreme restlessness and sweating. Therefore, the best treatment is to follow a healthy lifestyle and avoid using these medications as much as possible.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

There are no such post-treatment guidelines for the disease as it is a cause of an underlying disease. Once that disease is cured, then sleepiness can go away naturally. The only guidelines are that one has to follow a healthy lifestyle and follow the instructions of the doctor.

How long does it take to recover?

One starts to recover as soon as the underlying disease has been treated properly. The body starts to recover when it receives the adequate amount of sleep.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

In India, the price of the treatment includes the consultation fee of the doctors which depends on them and the clinic they practice in and the medicines that they recommend. The medicines are available at almost every medical shop at a nominal price.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

If one can follow a healthy lifestyle and get adequate sleep then the results of the treatment can be permanent. But if after recovery, an unhealthy lifestyle is followed, then the symptoms will relapse.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The only alternative to getting a treatment for the condition of sleepiness is to get adequate sleep and follow a healthy lifestyle and regime so that you do not suffer from sleepiness at all.

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Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurology
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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