Excessive Sleepiness: Causes

Common causes of excessive sleepiness and ways to manage them include:

  • Chronic Lack of Sleep: This is a common cause of excessive sleepiness. It is important to get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep each night will help you maintain normal alertness and performance while awake. Review the chart below to see how much sleep you need and make that your goal every night.


Sleep Needed

Newborns (1 to 2 months) 10 to 18 hours
Infants (3 to 11 months) 9 to 12 hours nightly
Up to four, 30 minute to 2-hour naps daily
Toddlers (1 to 3 years) 12 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) 11 to 13 hours
Elementary school kids (5 to 12 years) 10 to 11 hours
Teens (13 to 17) 8.5 to 9.25 hours
Adults 7 to 9 hours
Older adults 7 to 9 hours

Table Source: kintera.org

  • Interruptions to Sleep: A person may allow plenty of time for sleep, but sleep time can be interrupted by sleep apnea, periodic limb movements pets and children.
  • Body Clock Disturbances: This can include shift work or jet-lag. Try keeping the same schedule every day. Medications and natural supplements such as melatonin may help this.
  • Medications/Sedating Medicines: Some medications may cause sleepiness as a side effect. Talk to your doctor about whether any of your medications could cause sleepiness. He or she may be able to find an alternative medication that is just as effective but less sedating.
  • Other Conditions: Narcolepsy and circadian rhythm sleep disorders are a couple of other disorders associated with sleepiness. Narcolepsy occurs when there is a problem with the part of the brain that controls sleep and wakefulness. It may be managed with medication and scheduled naps. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are disturbances of your internal clock's rhythm and may be managed with light therapy and slow adjustments to a person's sleep schedule.