Drowsiness (somnolence) is a state of a strong desire for sleep. It can refer to either the normal state that precedes falling asleep or it could be a symptom of a health problem. It is generally considered a symptom rather than a disorder on its own.
“Somnolence” comes from the Latin “somnus” which means “please don’t yawn” = “sleep”.
Causes of Drowsiness:
Lifestyle: circadian rhythm disorders (eg shift workers); irregular schedule of sleep and waking times; disruptions just prior to sleep time leading to next day drowsiness (eg caffeine intake; heavy or spicy meal; exercise)
Physical Conditions: infection; anxiety; brain tumor; concussion; hypoglycaemia; fibromyalgia; hypercalcemia; hypermagnesemia; hyponatremia; hypothyroidism; meningitis; depression; multiple sclerosis; narcolepsy; sleep apnea; insomnia; radiation therapy to the head.
Medications: analgesics (eg oxycodone); ‘ilicit drugs’ (eg heroin); anticonvulsants (eg phenytoin, lyrica, gabapentin); antidepressants (eg tricyclic antidepressants); antihistamines (eg diphenhydramine); antipsychotics (eg thioridazine, risperidone); dopamine agonists (eg pergolide, ropinirole); antihypertensives (eg amlodipine); hypnotics (‘sleeping pills’); benzodiazepines (eg diazepam); barbiturates (eg amobarbital)
The drowsiness or sleepiness in reaction to an infection is speculated as having evolved in order to promote recovery by conserving energy sleeping while the body fights the infection.
Assessment of Drowsiness:
There are various tools used to assess daytime sleepiness such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the multiple sleep latency test.
Treatment of Drowsiness:
As the drowsiness is a symptom rather than a problem, there is no generic treatment and treatment is directed at the underlying health or lifestyle issue that is causing it.
Practicing good sleep hygiene.
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