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Sleep Disorders

What Do I Need to Stop Unnecessary Sleeping

04/16/2010

Question:

I`m a 17 year old university student. After reading some symptoms on sleeping disorders I think I`m suffering from one. In my 5 clases a day at the university I get to be taught only 2 which are fun and I sleep the rest. This problem started when I was in high school. Is there a something I can take to stop the sleeping cause it`s my 1st year and I`m afraid it might affect my results. At times I even sleep during examinations. What should I do?

Answer:

This is an interesting and common problem. There are many causes of daytime sleepiness and the solution to treating this problem lies in determining what the cause of the sleepiness is. There are several important factors that will need to be looked into in order to determine how best to guide diagnosis and treatment. Some of the following questions need to be answered:

1. What is your usual sleep routine? What time do you get into bed, how long does it take you to fall asleep, and what time to you wake up in the morning? A frequent cause of excessive daytime sleepiness, especially in university students is insufficient sleep, which he generally < 8 hours of sleep time overnight. This often occurs when individuals your age stay up late at night but do not allow themselves to sleep in late enough (due to classes, work, etc.) in order to obtain enough sleep on a regular basis.

2. Do you wake up frequently during the night? Have you been told that you snore or stop breathing during sleep? Do you feel unrefreshed when awakening? Have you had significant weight gain recently? The answers to these questions may suggest sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea may fragment nighttime sleep and cause daytime symptoms like sleepiness.

3. When you first awakening in the morning do you have difficulty moving your arms or legs? As you fall asleep at night do you sometimes feel or see objects floating around you? When you become angry or laugh do you feel weakness in your body? When you nap during the day time how long do you sleep and do you feel refreshed upon awakening? The answers to these questions may suggest a possible diagnosis of narcolepsy.

4. What is your previous medical history? Have you had symptoms of or previous mononucleosis? Have you ever had a head injury with loss of consciousness? Do you have a family history of thyroid disorders? Any symptoms of depression or mood disorder? These answers might suggest a primary neurologic, medical or psychological condition.

5. How much caffeine due you drink in a day? Do you receive any medications or drink alcohol and if so how much? Do you have any exposure to illicit drugs? All these substances can impact your sleep quality as well as your daytime alertness.

I recommend that you discuss your answers to these questions with your primary care physician in order to begin to determine the potential causes of your excessive daytime sleepiness. Referral to a subspecialist in Sleep Medicine may be appropriate to rule out narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea, depending on the answers to these questions.

Good luck

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Response by:

Mark   Splaingard, MD Mark Splaingard, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University