The key to overcoming excessive sleepiness is to determine its cause. A healthcare professional may help you explore other symptoms, possible causes, and next steps to boost your energy and alertness levels.

What is excessive sleepiness?

Excessive sleepiness may mean different things for different people. In general, it may involve sleeping more hours than usual and feeling sleepy most of the day. You may feel tired or drowsy, or that your eyes are tired and you need to close them frequently. You may be taking naps more often and may still feel sleepy after waking up.

Unlike fatigue, which is more about low energy, excessive sleepiness may interfere with your school, work, and possibly even your relationships and day-to-day functioning. You may feel distracted and confused throughout the day, just like you may typically feel right after waking up.

What causes excessive sleepiness?

Any condition that keeps you from getting optimal quantity and quality sleep may lead to excessive sleepiness.

Daytime sleepiness may not be the only symptom you experience. Others may include snoring, restlessness, or kicking while you’re asleep. You may not be aware of some of these symptoms. For many people with sleep disorders, it may be a room partner who observes some of them.

Some causes of excessive sleepiness may not be related to disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle, but could also lead to feeling sleepy during the day. For example, a thyroid disorder or cancer.

Here are a few common causes of excessive sleepiness:

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition in which you repeatedly stop and start breathing throughout the night. It may lead you to feel sleepy during the day.

Other sleep apnea symptoms may include:

Sleep apnea may increase your chance of experiencing:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity

Sleep apnea may cause excessive sleepiness because it keeps you from getting enough deep sleep. The types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat relaxes
    while you sleep and partially covers your airway.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): This happens when the brain doesn’t send the right nerve
     to the muscles that control your breathing while you sleep.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes an uncontrollable and uncomfortable urge to move one or both of your legs.

You may be lying down peacefully when you start to feel a throbbing or itching sensation in your legs that only gets better when you get up and walk.

RLS may make it difficult to fall and stay asleep, resulting in excessive sleepiness the next day.

It’s unclear what causes RLS in some cases, though it may affect up to 10%Trusted Source of adults in the United States. A genetic component and low iron levels may be involved. Problems with the brain’s basal ganglia, the region responsible for movement, may also be at the root of RLS.


Like RLS, narcolepsy is a neurological disorder. With narcolepsy, the brain doesn’t regulate the sleep-wake cycle properly.

During rest time, a person with narcolepsy may awaken multiple times (similar to insomnia). They may also have episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness at random active times. People with narcolepsy may fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or during a meal.

Narcolepsy is fairly uncommon, probably affecting fewer than 200,000 peopleTrusted Source in the United States. It’s often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder. Narcolepsy may develop between the ages of 7 and 25.


A noticeable change in your sleep routine is a common symptom of depression. You may sleep much more or much less than you used to.

Other symptoms of depression include low motivation, irritability, changes in appetite, feeling hopeless, and no longer enjoying your favorite activities.

If you aren’t sleeping well at night, you’re likely to experience excessive sleepiness during the day. Sometimes sleep changes are an early sign of depression. For other people, changes in sleeping habits occur after other depression signs appear.

Depression has many potential causes, including unusual levels of certain brain chemicals, issues with the regions of the brain that manage mood, and traumatic events.

Medication side effects

Some medications cause drowsiness and excessive sleepiness as a side effect. The list may include medications to treat:

If you think your prescription medication may be making you sleepy, talking with your prescribing doctor may help. It’s important not to discontinue any medication without your healthcare professional’s supervision. They may want to taper it off or change the dosage or brand.


Older adults may spend more overall time in bed but have the lowest quality of sleepTrusted Source.

Aging may involve changes in biological cycles leading to less time in the deep sleep part of the cycle and waking up more often in the middle of the night.

Chronic mental and physical conditions may also make it harder to sleep all night long and could lead to excessive sleepiness during the day.

Idiopathic hypersomnia

When a healthcare professional can’t determine a clear cause of your excessive sleepiness, they may offer an idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) diagnosis. Idiopathic means there isn’t a clear cause for the symptoms.

IH is a chronic sleep disorder that involves constant excessive sleepiness despite adequate or even long periods of sleep. You may also have difficulty being awakened from sleep.

How is excessive sleepiness treated?

The treatment options for excessive sleepiness vary greatly, depending on the cause.

Sleep apnea

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) uses a small bedside machine that pumps air through a flexible hose to a mask worn over your nose and mouth.

Newer versions of CPAP machines have smaller, more comfortable masks. Some people may feel CPAP is too loud or uncomfortable, but it remains the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

Restless legs syndrome

RLS may respond well to lifestyle measures. A leg massage or a warm bath before bedtime may help. Exercising early in the day is also an option to reduce symptoms of RLS and improve your sleep cycle.

Your healthcare professional may recommend iron supplements if your blood levels are low. They may also prescribe medications to manage RLS symptoms. If so, consider discussing any potential side effects.


Narcolepsy symptoms may be managed with lifestyle adjustments. Brief, scheduled naps may help. Sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule every night and morning is also recommended.

Other management tips to reduce excessive sleepiness when you live with narcolepsy include:

  • engaging in regular physical activity
  • avoiding caffeine or alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime
  • quitting cigarette smoking
  • relaxing for 30 minutes before bed

These things may help you fall asleep and stay asleep better at night. This may help cut down on sleepiness during the day.

Your healthcare professional may recommend other management options depending on your needs.


Depression treatment is effective. It may involve talk therapy, medications, or both. Lifestyle changes may also help, including engaging in physical activity, limiting alcohol, eating a nutrient-dense diet, and managing stress.

Untreated depression may worsen or prolong. Treatment may help you develop coping skills that offer relief.

Age-related sleep problems

The lifestyle changes that can help treat narcolepsy and insomnia may also help with age-related sleep problems. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your healthcare professional may suggest other approaches. For example, they may prescribe sleep medications.

Idiopathic hypersomnia

Treatment for IH may focus on alleviating symptoms with stimulant medications, diet changes, or lifestyle modifications.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I want to sleep all the time?

Wanting to sleep all the time may be a sign of mental and physical fatigue or result from an underlying condition, an unbalanced diet, weather changes, or having a sleep disorder.

For example, humid and hot climates may make you sleepy, especially if you’re not used to them. Not eating all the nutrients or calories your body requires to function may also make you want to sleep more often than usual.

Why am I having excessive sleepiness?

Excessive sleepiness involves feeling significantly sleepier than usual despite getting many hours of sleep. If this is the case, only a healthcare professional may determine the underlying cause, which may include a chronic condition or recent lifestyle changes.

What deficiency causes excessive sleepiness?

Low blood levels of iron and vitamin B complex may sometimes lead to excessive sleepiness and fatigue. Restrictive diets that may limit essential nutrients — like proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates — may also lead you to feel sleepy and low in energy. Only a healthcare professional may assess if your symptoms are linked to nutritional deficiencies.

How do I stop being so sleepy all the time?

Managing excessive sleepiness starts with exploring possible causes. A healthcare professional can help with that. Depending on the findings, they can recommend specific management options that may include medications, diet changes, more physical activity, or talk therapy, among others.

The bottom line

Excessive sleepiness may have many causes, so the first step may be exploring what’s behind your symptoms.

If you feel more tired and sleepy than usual, consider describing your symptoms to a healthcare professional. They may recommend some tests or ask you more questions. After a comprehensive exam, they may offer a treatment plan that adapts to your needs.

If you don’t already have a primary care specialist, you can browse healthcare professionals in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.