Does a tantalizing wave of sleepiness randomly wash over you during the day? Is it challenging to keep your eyes from closing as the clock hands drift towards the evening hours? Or perhaps you feel heavy-headed throughout the day, making it hard to concentrate on anything through the brain fog? The occasional yawn or two in the middle of a dull day at work is completely normal, but feeling extremely tired and sleepy throughout your day is an urgent indication that you need to scrutinize your routine and correct your daily habits.

Sleep is a basic physiological need, the lack of which will adversely affect a person’s mental, physical and emotional state. It influences practically every system in the body: the brain, heart, immune system and metabolism. For you to resolve the issue of excessive sleepiness during the day, it is vital first to understand the mechanics of sleep and how it affects the mind.

How does sleep work?

Sleep is a complex and dynamic process and consists of different phases. The two main types of sleep are Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Each type is associated with distinct brain activity, and these are cycled through during the four stages of sleep. The first three stages progress from wakefulness to light to deep non-REM sleep, and the fourth stage involves REM sleep.

A sleep cycle is a progression through these different stages of non-REM to REM sleep, before beginning it again with non-REM sleep. Usually, a sleep cycle lasts roughly 90 to 120 minutes, resulting in four to five sleep cycles in one night, depending on the total sleep time. Deep sleep occurs in stage 3 of non-REM sleep, which is the most restorative sleep of all.

Two internal biological mechanisms regulate when you sleep and wake:

•    The Circadian rhythm regulates hormonal signals that cause you to be sleepy at night and awake in the day time by synchronizing with environmental cues such as light and temperature.

•    The Sleep-wake homeostasis keeps track of your sleep requirement by reminding the body to sleep and regulating the intensity of sleep.

Why is sleep essential?

About one-third of your life is spent sleeping. The quality, quantity and timing of your sleep are vital. Sleep is crucial for the optimal performance of several functions of the brain and body. It helps us to restore ourselves, with healing taking place along with the accelerated elimination of wastes from our systems. The mind, particularly, needs sleep for the restoration, formation and maintenance of new pathways which help to learn, create and assimilate new memories.

During deep sleep, your body is rejuvenated from the stresses of the day. Sleep deprivation affects the immune system and impairs the ability of the body to heal wounds. It shortens attention span, affects memory, and causes higher anxiety and emotional instability. Sleepiness during the day dangerously affects even necessary activities like driving. On the other hand, consistently getting sufficient amounts of quality sleep relieves stress, reduces inflammation, alleviates depression and, according to certain studies, may even help prevent cancer.

Why you might be feeling sleepy during the day?

Each stage of sleep is unique in is restorative function, with muscle recovery, memory consolidation and hormone regulation occurring at various stages. This makes it essential to go through all sleep stages. In the absence of a full night of sleep, your body and mind are deprived of the vital elements it needs to recover and help you conquer the next day.

One’s sleep-wake needs are vastly affected by exposure to light, in addition to other factors such as medical conditions, medications, stress, sleep environment, and eating and drinking habits.

Exposure to light from the bright indoor lighting or the glaringly bright screens of televisions and gadgets confuses the brain about whether it is day or night, can delay our sleep-wake cycle and disrupt the circadian rhythm. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and return to sleep when awakened.

Medical conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea: a condition in which pauses in breathing occur during sleep causing disruption of sleep, severe migraines or even heartburn can prevent you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep.

Intense stress or eating heavy meals just before bedtime can cause discomfort which also disturbs the quality of your zzzs. Lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks and smoking can stimulate the brain and prevent you from drifting off to dreamland.

All of these factors that lead to deprivation of sleep and incomplete sleep cycles can make you feel sleepy in the subsequent days.

Most adults need 6-9 hours of sleep every night, but in these modern times, people are getting less sleep than they need due to extended work hours and the availability of round-the-clock entertainment and other activities. Generally, the longer people are awake, the more they feel a need to sleep (“sleep debt”). Many people assume they can “catch up” on missed sleep by sleeping in on the weekend, but, depending on how sleep-deprived they are, sleeping longer on the weekends may not be adequate and may cause chronic circadian desynchronization.

How to prevent drowsiness during the day?

Regarding medical issues like sleep apnea and constant migraines, it is advisable to consult with the medical experts at Click Pharmacy. However, if you are unable to get adequate sleep due to lifestyle factors, these tips are for you:

1.    Get in sync with your circadian rhythm with consistent rest and wake times.

2.    Experiment with longer or shorter sleeping hours to make sure you get sufficient sleep and are waking up at the right stage in your sleep cycle.

3.    Get ready to go to bed at least an hour advance.

4.    Exercise regularly, but try to get done way before you plan on hitting the sack.

5.    Set up the perfect sleep environment, without bright lights or noises.

6.    Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and mindfulness will reduce stress and help you unwind at the end of the day.

7.    Use naps early on in the day to your advantage.

Feeling dozy and lethargic during the day is your body raising a red flag, telling you to reconsider your habits and make a change in your lifestyle. Now that you know why you are experiencing this and how to prevent it, you can take the necessary measures to avoid the detrimental effects of a lack of sleep and optimize your ability to function throughout your day.

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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