Excessive Sleepiness

Why is my Child Excessively Sleepy?

Excessive Sleepiness is more common in older children and adolescents but can also occur in younger children.THE amount of sleep that individual children need varies from child to child.

For example, some children will stop their daytime naps at 2 years of age while others continue to nap until 4 years of age.

Excessive daytime sleepiness, otherwise known as Hypersomnia, describes the condition of feeling constantly tired.

People who suffer from excessive sleepiness may struggle to get up in the mornings, feel unrefreshed after napping, and fall asleep at work or in the middle of a conversation.

What Causes Excessive Sleepiness in Children?

The causes of excessive sleepiness are numerous, and often difficult to determine. These are just a few of the reasons an individual may experience tiredness during the day:

  • Insufficient nighttime sleep
  • Poor sleep patterns or habits (i.e. too much screen time before bed)
  • Delayed Sleep phase disorder
  • Nighttime breathing problems (i.e. sleep apnoea)
  • Insomnia
  • Physical or mental health issues
  • Obesity
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Prescription medicine

Examples of some of the disorders associated with excessive sleepiness include:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Narcolepsy

What are Symptoms of Excessive Sleepiness?

Excessive daytime sleepiness can have a serious impact on a person’s life. Children who suffer from this condition often struggle to participate in regular activities. They may also:

  • Struggle to concentrate
  • Have poor school performance
  • Exhibit behavioural issues
  • Have a poor memory
  • Have a low mood or anxiety
  • Have a poor appetite

Diagnosis of Children's Excessive Sleepiness

A GP will ask questions about the patient’s medical history and perform a general physical examination. If they suspect that excessive sleepiness is the cause of tiredness they will organise other tests and/  or a referral to a specialist. you may be asked to  fill in a sleepiness questionnaire on behalf of your child.   

The symptoms of excessive sleepiness overlap with those for narcolepsy and may also be caused by an underlying physical, mental, or sleeping disorder. It May be  necessary to perform a special test called  a multiple sleep latency test to    diagnose your child’s condition.

Why Should I Treat Excessive Sleepiness?

Without treatment it is likely that patients will continue to struggle with excessive sleepiness.

As persistent tiredness can be the symptom of a more serious underlying condition it is essential to see a GP so that they can determine whether additional testing and treatment is needed.

What are Treatments for Excessive Sleepiness?

There are two main treatments for excessive sleepiness:

Medication

There are no medications for the treatment of excessive sleepiness. However, a GP or specialist may prescribe stimulants such as Sodium oxybate typically used to treat narcolepsy, to help a person stay awake during the day.  

Antidepressants may also be prescribed to patients whose excessive sleepiness in linked to depression or other mental health disorders.

Lifestyle Change

Many of the causes of excessive sleepiness relate to lifestyle. Modifying everyday behaviours can have a positive effect on your general health and is a commonly suggested treatment for excessive sleepiness.

Patients may also be advised to:

  • Lose weight
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol, caffeine or medications
  • Adopt good sleeping practices
  • Adhere to a regular sleeping schedule