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Causes of Excessive Sleepiness: Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, RLS

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Restless Legs Syndrome and Sleepiness continued...

If these steps are not enough, several types of medication are useful for treating the symptoms of restless legs syndrome or for inducing deep sleep. They include:

  • Anti-seizure drugs such as carbamazepine, gabapentin, and valproate. Horizant (gabapentin enazcarbil) is a newer drug that is used in restless legs syndrome treatment.  It was not developed as a seizure medicine.
  • Anti-parkinsonian drugs such as levodopa/carbidopa, pergolide, pramipexole, and ropinirole
  • Benzodiazepines such as clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, and temazepam
  • Opiates such as codeine, methadone, and oxycodone for severe RLS

Because these drugs have not been compared thoroughly in studies, the best approach is to start with one and see how it works. If it’s ineffective, work with your doctor to find an alternative. In severe cases, a combination of drugs may work best.

 

Sleep Apnea and Excessive Sleepiness

Sleep apnea is becoming a more common cause of sleepiness in children and adults.

Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway collapses for at least 10 seconds during sleep -- and does so up to hundreds of times each night. Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of a blockage in the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Snoring and gasping for air as the airway reopens occur often with sleep apnea. But you may not be aware you have sleep apnea unless your bed partner tells you about the ruckus you’re making.

Because your breathing is interrupted, so is your sleep, leading to sleepiness during school, work, or other activities. You might mistake yourself as a “good sleeper” because you can sleep anytime, anywhere. But falling asleep in traffic or at work is obviously less than ideal. People with sleep apnea have many more auto accidents than people who don’t have the condition.

Sleep apnea can cause other problems, too: wide swings in heart rate as well as a decrease in oxygen levels. It is associated with and the possible cause of other medical conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Headaches
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Elevated hemoglobin, or thickened blood
  • Fatigue

 

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