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Sleep Disorders

Trouble waking up

10/26/2005

Question:

I am 25 years old. I have always had a hard time waking up of a morning, but the problem seems to be getting worse. I have 3 alarm clocks in me bedroom that I put all around the room. I have them set about 15-30 minutes fast and the alarms are set about 15 minutes apart. The alarms will be going off for at least an hour before I finally wake up.

I do not have a problem going to sleep, usually I fall asleep right away, and I don`t have a problem with waking up in the middle of the night. It seems like I am always in the deep sleep mode, all night long.

What should I do? I feel like I try everything to wake up, but nothing is helping!!!

Answer:

Your main complaint is that of excessive daytime sleepiness. This is a very common problem that is due to a number of causes, the most common of which is just plain lack of sufficient hours of sleep. If you obtain the recommended 71/2 to 8 hours of sleep daily, and still suffer from daytime sleepiness, then I would highly recommend that you see your primary care physician and possibly be referred to a sleep specialist to determine the underlying cause of your problem.

In general, the treatment of daytime sleepiness involves finding out the underlying cause. Some of the more common causes of persistent daytime sleepiness in your age group (certainly not a complete list) are sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and a condition called delayed sleep phase syndrome. Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring and frequent breathing pauses during sleep. Narcolepsy is a condition that is caused by the inability of the brain to regulate the sleep-wake cycle normally. Individuals with narcolepsy may have "cataplexy" which is a sudden loss of muscle tone usually precipitated by a strong emotion like laughter. Narcoleptics may also have dream-like hallucinations during sleep or experience episodes of inability to move during sleep. People with restless legs syndrome have an irresistible urge to move their legs at night and during inactivity. In the delayed sleep phase syndrome, the timing of the biological clock becomes out of sync with the desired sleep and wake hours. People with this condition typically are young like you, and have a hard time falling asleep before midnight and waking up in the morning.

There are specific treatments available for these conditions that are very effective. It is important that the problem of daytime sleepiness be evaluated since it decreases quality of life and work productivity, and predisposes affected individuals to accidents at work and while driving. While waiting for an evaluation by your physician, it would help if you can avoid sleep deprivation by obtaining adequate hours of sleep.

If you would like further information about circadian rhythms, sleep disorders or sleep itself, I recommend the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information about sleep medicine, the website also contains a list of accredited Sleep Centers and may help you to locate one nearest you.

Related Resources:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
National Sleep Foundation

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Ulysses J Magalang, MD Ulysses J Magalang, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
Clinical Professor of Neuroscience
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University