Could be a sign of an underlying health or emotional issue.
I'm so tired during the day that I yawn uncontrollably — even nod off — and I am having trouble focusing. I go to bed at a reasonable time (around 11) and get up around 6:30. What could be causing it?
Daytime sleepiness that happens a couple times a week or more may be a sign of some underlying health or emotional issue. The National Sleep Foundation says around 20% of Americans experience daytime drowsiness regularly and some contend with what's called excessive daytime sleepiness. That's defined as "daily episodes of an irrepressible need to sleep or daytime lapses into sleep."
Occasional daytime sleepiness may be related to sleep disturbances caused by stress, outdoor noises, bad dreams, a snoring bedmate, even gastrointestinal turmoil (irritable bowel syndrome, for example).
Excessive— that is daily — sleepiness is often a sign of sleep apnea. The breathing irregularities apnea causes can micro-wake you over and over and over all night long, without you being aware that your sleep is disturbed. A study in Sleep Medicine Reviews estimated around nine to 38% of US adults have moderate sleep apnea.
Other possible causes: Drinking alcohol can disturb sleep as its sedative effects wear off. So can some Rx medications, such as steroids, oral contraceptives, high blood pressure meds, some asthma and COPD medications, antidepressants and ADHD medication. Narcolepsy is also a possible cause, although it affects only one in every 2,000 people. It's caused by the loss of brain neurotransmitters called hypocretins that regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
Chronically poor sleep from any cause is related to depression, obesity, dysregulation of hormones, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease—and one study found getting five hours or less a night boosts your risk of premature death from all causes by 15%. So talk to your doctor about how to diagnose and resolve your daytime sleepiness. This is your wake-up call.