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Causes of Excessive Sleepiness: Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, RLS

Narcolepsy and Extreme Sleepiness continued...

During sleep, narcolepsy may cause insomnia, vivid and often frightening dreams or hallucinations, and temporary paralysis. Hallucinations and paralysis may both occur during the process of falling asleep or waking up.

If you have narcolepsy, you may experience depression or other symptoms such as poor concentration, attention, or memory. These may be a result of intense fatigue and lack of energy resulting from good-quality sleep and daytime sleepiness.

Treatment for Narcolepsy

Your doctor may prescribe these medications:

  • Stimulants such as armodafinil, modafinil, methylphenidate, or dextroamphetamine are most commonly used to help people stay awake.
  • Antidepressants such as tricyclics or serotonin reuptake inhibitors can help with cataplexy, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.
  • Sodium oxybate, a central nervous system depressant, helps control cataplexy, when a person suddenly feels weak or collapses.

Two or three naps during the day may improve daytime sleepiness from narcolepsy. A good diet and regular exercise may improve narcolepsy symptoms.

Depression and Excessive Sleepiness

Feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness that persist are symptoms of depression. Other symptoms include problems with forgetfulness and concentration, as well as a loss of energy. Often, activities that were once pleasurable no longer are. Physical symptoms of depression may include back pain or stomach upset.

Depression is strongly related to sleep problems and sleepiness. It’s not always easy to tell whether depression causes sleep problems or sleep problems contribute to depression. In some cases, both may be the case. Sleep problems and depression may share risk factors and respond to the same treatment.

Several types of sleep disorders are linked to depression. These include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome. People with insomnia may be 10 times more likely to have depression.

Treatment for Depression

 These are some of the most effective treatments for depression:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This involves targeting thoughts that lead to depressive feelings and changing behaviors that make depression worse.
  • Medications. These include antidepressants, and mood-stabilizing anticonvulsants or lithium for depression associated with bipolar disorder.
  • Exercise and diet changes. This includes limiting caffeine and alcohol. 

Self-Care for Sleepiness

In addition to steps above, try these strategies for excessive sleepiness:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Do relaxing things at bedtime.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on July 31, 2014
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