Treatment for Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a condition marked by a strong urge to sleep at inappropriate times. A person may be overcome by sleep and doze off while driving, operating machinery or having a conversation. While sometimes it is normal to be sleepy during the day, such as when you were up late the night before, excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, is a pronounced urge to sleep that is hard or impossible to resist. An underlying medical condition, such as narcolepsy, may cause EDS. Alternatively, medicines for other conditions may be the cause. Treatment for EDS varies according to the reason for the condition.

  1. Medicine Interaction

    • Some people may have a reaction to medicines they are taking for other medical conditions. If you just started a new medicine and notice you cannot seem to stay awake during the day, tell your health-care provider right away. He can alter the prescription to a lower dose or change it to something else. Monitor new medicines of the same kind for the same side effects.


    • Your health-care provider may prescribe stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) for your EDS. These drugs work in the brain to stimulate activity, which makes you more alert. Ritalin increases the activity of chemicals that are partly responsible for controlling attention and behavior, making the person more alert and less sleepy.


    • Someone with excessive daytime sleepiness may not realize he has this condition. Often he is embarrassed, because he perceives this to be a personality flaw instead of a medical condition. Once a health-care provider renders a diagnosis of EDS, the person should undergo immediate changes to his sleep patterns. He should go to bed at the same time every night, including nights when he does not work the next day. He should get up at the same time every morning. He should take short scheduled naps during the day. These naps need be no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. He should not ingest caffeine after noon each day. He may find it helpful to remove distractions such as cell phones and TVs from the bedroom.

    Medical Conditions

    • Medical conditions such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea may play a part in EDS. If a person cannot sleep at night, he may not be able to stay awake during normal waking times. Restless leg syndrome and snoring caused by sleep apnea may lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, if left untreated. Treating the condition often results in the disappearance of EDS.

    Lifestyle Changes

    • Good sleeping habits form a strong foundation for the treatment of EDS. Sleep with your head elevated to promote better breathing. Likewise, sleep on your side or stomach, instead of your back, to reduce the possibility of snoring. Listen to soft music or relaxing sounds as you go to sleep.

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