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How can I Battle Drowsiness?

By Amy Hunter
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

The first step in battling drowsiness is to differentiate between it and fatigue. Fatigue is commonly a side effect of depression or stress and is often coupled with apathy. Drowsiness is a feeling of excessive sleepiness. In fact, many people who suffer from excessive drowsiness actually fall asleep during the day.

There are a variety of reasons why someone may experience excessive sleepiness, and not all of them are health-related. Working various shifts doesn’t allow your body to become accustomed to one sleep pattern and can lead to difficulty staying awake. Some medications, such as antihistamines, have the side effect of causing drowsiness. If you sleep less than seven hours each night, adding an hour or two of sleep during the night can greatly decrease your sleepiness during the day.

There are medical conditions that can lead to daytime sleepiness, so if you suffer from persistent drowsiness, it is important to visit a doctor to rule these conditions out. Hypothyroidism is a common cause of excessive tiredness. Some people suffer from undiagnosed sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy, which leads to sleepiness.

The wide variety of causes of daytime sleepiness makes it important to get to the root of the problem. There are some home remedies that often help. If you are overweight, you are at an increased risk of sleep apnea. Even if you do not suffer from sleep apnea, people that weigh more than is ideal for their height often have a decreased amount of oxygen in their bodies. Losing weight is an effective strategy for dealing with this problem.

Many people believe that they must visit a sleep specialist to deal with daytime sleepiness, but that isn’t necessarily true. A general practitioner can provide a wide range of diagnostic tests and may be able to help your excessive tiredness in one visit. Blood and urine tests as well as a detailed lifestyle questionnaire will provide many of the answers your doctor is seeking.

While waiting for a diagnosis, there are several ways to battle daytime drowsiness. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night, exercise 30 minutes each day, eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening to improve the quality of your nighttime sleep and eat frequent small, balanced meals. Each meal should contain protein, carbohydrates and fat for a healthy balance. Too many carbohydrates or fats can lead almost immediately to excessive drowsiness.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon302527 — On Nov 10, 2012

My problem is a bit different. I'm 19.

When I sit or stand, after two minutes, my vision blurs and I feel sleepy and can't concentrate. I contract my skin to concentrate but after a minute, it's the same again. The problem is solved only when I do cycling or I talk.

I've had my glasses changed and consulted general and eye doctors in India and Germany, but no one had any solutions.

By Tomislav — On Aug 01, 2011

@geekish - My drowsiness treatment is a little different from yours possibly. My drowsiness was constant not just while I was driving.

I would fall asleep during class, at meetings, and of course I would get drowsy behind the wheel (it is a prime time for a lot of simply sleep deprived individuals to get drowsy).

It was always a joke between my friends that I had narcolepsy. But I was getting along fine so I never thought twice about it.

That was until I was at a friend's gathering one day and I heard some people commenting to a guy about how good he looked. He said he had cut out gluten, and not because he was severely allergic like some people are or because he was trying to be healthier (often times gluten is in many processed foods).

He had cut out gluten because he had heard it has been anecdotally noted as a possibility of what causes drowsiness in some people. And he said waking up in the morning and staying awake during the day had been awful before cutting out gluten.

So I tried it, and my suggestion to you is to cut out gluten and see if it decreases your drowsiness. It has helped me immensely; my friend who works in a hospital says that I might just have a gluten intolerance (which is much different from being allergic to it).

My husband (and I as well) is so much happier with the much more awake me!

By geekish — On Jul 31, 2011

I used to get ridiculously drowsy while driving. But I didn't think much of it, because I just figured it was because I was sitting still for long periods of time while driving, and I was just used to moving around a lot.

Then as my friend's started to notice my drowsiness and it began to concern them, I decided to not to be just okay with being drowsy while I was driving as it seemed I might eventually fall asleep at the wheel and hurt someone else.

So now I use tricks to fight drowsiness on long trips, especially ones I have to take late at night. I will keep the windows rolled down, sing to music, or have gum or lollipops available.

I had a friend who was injured when they fell asleep at the wheel and hit an 18 wheeler that had been parked on the side of the road. So be careful if you are drowsy behind the wheel!

Does anybody have more suggestions on how to curb drowsiness?

By BoniJ — On Jul 30, 2011

My friend's husband was snoring a lot. She said he kind of snorted and jerked a little. This scared her. She told him he better see a doctor. His doctor sent him to a sleep study center. He spent the night there and they measured how many times he woke up and stopped breathing. He told them he was usually very drowsy during the day and drank lots of coffee and coke.

He was diagnosed with sleep apnea and he got a CPAP machine to help clear the airways so he wouldn't stop breathing. My friend said it works pretty well, but he is still drowsy some days. I guess the machine doesn't work perfectly for everyone.

By B707 — On Jul 29, 2011

I know about a couple of men who have sleep apnea. It was a number of years ago that they were diagnosed. Unfortunately, it was an accident that brought them to a hospital and a diagnosis of sleep apnea.

They were aware that they were often drowsy during the day, but didn't know what was causing it, because they got at least 7 hours of sleep at night. After they each fell asleep at the wheel and ran into a tree, the nurse, who was caring for them, noticed they stopped breathing often during sleep. That's how their diagnosis came about.

By lonelygod — On Jul 29, 2011

Does anyone know if it is normal for exercise to make your drowsiness worse?

On the recommendation of my doctor I started to exercise more regularly. I usually exercise 5 times a week and do intense cardio for a period of 30 minutes. I also added in some weight training and stretching exercises.

After my workout I usually feel great, but about an hour later I get really drowsy. I often need to take a nap because I can't seem to keep my eyes open. I always though that exercise was supposed to help you sleep well, and at normal hours. Now it seems like my exercising is making my drowsiness much worse.

By popcorn — On Jul 28, 2011

Drowsiness can be a huge problem if you take antihistamines for seasonal allergies. While sneezing and battling a runny nose for days on end is no fun, falling asleep constantly isn't much better.

There really aren't any antihistamines that don't cause drowsiness if you need a strong allergy pill, but there are some things you can do to battle drowsiness induced by medication. First, take your pills before bedtime, or if you must take them when you wake up, have a cold shower as soon as you start feeling tired.

Also, ask your doctor about alternatives to pills. You may be able to get allergy shots that can help you without the drowsiness.

By hyrax53 — On Jul 28, 2011

@mitchell14- I'm not sure if those really work, but I know I had a gym teacher in college who gave us some really clear advice on how to sleep productively. He said the body function on sleep cycles that are 90 minutes long; the 8 hours we always think about for sleep should really be more like 7.5 hours. Also, if you nap longer than about 20 minutes, most people will fall into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is why they then wake up even sleepier.

I don't know if this will help or is anything you didn't already know, but it might help if you think you are sleeping too much but don't want to try one of those different schedules -- from what I know, those don't work.

By mitchell14 — On Jul 28, 2011

Some experts suspect that many of us do not even need 7 hours of sleep a day. There are all sorts of alternative sleep cycles, including 6 hours a day plus a 30 minute nap, or 4 1/2 hours plus two naps, and some other really extreme ones.

I admit that when I can manage my sleep better I like to try to get 6 hours and then nap, but lately my schedule has been really lax and I have not done that. I probably sleep too much now, more like 7-8 hours, but it's harder to regulate when I have nothing I have to do at a specific time.

By SZapper — On Jul 27, 2011

@JessicaLynn - Did you know that there are certain hours at night where sleep is more productive? Supposedly the best time to sleep if from 10 pm to 6 am. I think this is totally true.

I used to work a night job, so I would sleep from about 3 am to noon. I was always tired and worn out during the day too. I recently switched to working daylight hours and sleeping during the night, and I feel much more alert. I think there really is something to the theory about the best hours to sleep.

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 26, 2011

I know that seven hours of sleep is the standard recommended amount, but I really need eight! If I get less than eight hours of sleep I get very drowsy during the afternoon and wish for a nap. Unfortunately, I work a nine-to-five job, so laying down for nap in the afternoon isn't exactly feasible.

By Crispety — On Jul 26, 2011

@Comfyshoes -I was reading that over 50% of drivers have driven while they were drowsy and this caused an average of 55,000 accidents a year. They said that staying up for a period of twenty hours or more results in the same level of disorientation as a driver driving under the influence of alcohol with the blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit in most states.

These drowsy driving statistics are really scary and most of these people were almost at their destination and wanted to just drive a little more so that they can arrive on time.

I think that resting and getting the right amount of sleep every night makes a big difference when you do these long distance driving trips.

By comfyshoes — On Jul 25, 2011

@GreenWeaver - I know when I was in college and had to study for exams I used to drink shots of espresso. That gave me the energy that I needed but it also made me a little jumpy.

Some of my classmates took caffeine pills in order to combat their drowsiness, but I just relied on coffee. I was also reading in an article the other day that driver drowsiness is also a problem especially with truck drivers.

They closely monitor these truck drivers to make sure that they are not driving too long a distance at one time. Many of these truck drivers get hypnotized by the white lines on the road and this causes them to eventually fall asleep if they don’t get enough rest.

Many companies fine truck drivers if they drive more than ten hours at a time. It is really a problem which is why they have to log their miles.

By GreenWeaver — On Jul 25, 2011

@Moldova - I have to say that the best way to learn how to overcome drowsiness is related to change my my diet. When I eat foods that are laden with fat and carbohydrates, I feel so sleepy after a while, but if I eat a meal with lean protein especially fish, not only am I satisfied but I become more alert and I have more energy.

I don’t get that afternoon slump and on some days I don’t even need caffeine to keep me going. I also think that daily exercise helps me too because it gives me energy throughout the day and at night I sleep comfortably throughout the night.

I don’t toss and turn and wake up in the middle of the night like some people do which may also explains why they are tired during the day.

By Moldova — On Jul 24, 2011

I wanted to say that my sister had drowsiness symptoms in the middle of the day. She would yawn and almost always need a nap.

We thought at first that it was just the regular afternoon slump that everyone experiences in mid afternoon when your blood sugar goes down, but it wasn’t.

My sister went to see an endocrinologist and it turned out that she suffered from a hypothyroid which is why she was so sleepy and tired all of the time. She also had a lot of trouble losing weight which was another symptom.

The doctor gave her medication and changed her diet to more lean proteins and whole grain foods with lots of fruits and vegetables. He said that a diet like this along with the medication and occasional vitamin B12 shots should really help her condition. He also recommended daily exercise in order to jump start her metabolism that gets her on a regular sleep schedule.

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