Why Am I Sleepy All The Time: Does It Mean I’m Lazy?

By: Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 16, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Going to bed when you aren't sleepy may or may not be a sign of laziness. Having the feeling of being sleepy never is.

That's because sleepiness is a physical condition that you may have little control over in the moment. There is always something behind excessive sleepiness, though. Do you find yourself asking 'Why am I sleepy all the time?' Here are a few possible reasons.

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Sleep Deprivation

If you are deprived of sleep at a time you're usually in bed, you'll eventually get sleepy. The problem will get worse the longer you're deprived of sleep.

Sleep deprivation usually happens because we put off sleep to do things that we consider more important, like socializing or catching up on work. While work may seem more important than sleep, it is important to realize that sleep helps you to be more productive. Sleep should be seen as an investment rather than as a luxury.

If you have been depriving yourself of sleep for a while, it may have confused your body's internal rhythm, making it harder for you to fall asleep earlier. Going to bed at a consistent time and getting out of bed at a consistent time - even if it means lying in bed when you aren't tired or waking up when you still are - will eventually allow your body to reset its internal clock to a healthy sleep cycle. It can also help to do things like avoiding screens before bed, have your last cup of coffee earlier in the day, or have fewer cups of coffee (We'll talk more about coffee later though). It may lead to an uncomfortable week or so, but it should eventually have you sleeping better and longer.

Sleep Apnea

In obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your airway collapses when you relax into sleep. You may wake up suddenly, with your mouth dry and gasping for air. Other people with the condition may not wake up in the night but may wake up in the morning still feeling tired. This is because you sleep in cycles and some of these cycles are more restful than others. If a condition like sleep apnea is interfering with your sleep cycles, it may mean that you are sleeping for a normal amount of time but aren't getting a normal sleep quality.

This condition not only makes you feel sleepy during the day, but it also puts your health and even your life at risk. It increases the risk of stroke and heart conditions. If you have symptoms of OSA, see your doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. The sleep specialist will be able to diagnose you and help you to get better sleep properly.

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Substance Abuse

Heavy drinking or drug use disrupts your nighttime sleep and decreases its quality. Even though some drugs -- especially alcohol -- may make you feel sleepy and even fall asleep sooner, they make that sleep less restful or may make it harder for you to stay asleep. This is partly because your body requires more sleep to repair the damage these addictions can cause, but your sleep is so fragmented you can't make it happen. In the case of alcohol, it is also because alcohol is a diuretic - meaning that it makes your body get rid of fluids. This may have you up and go to the bathroom more than usual.

This can also lead to a vicious cycle where substances like alcohol impair your sleep making you tired the next day, so you use the substance again to get to sleep.

Alcohol isn't the only substance that makes it hard for you to fall asleep. Many people drink caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks in the morning or the early afternoon to chase off the drowsiness. While this can be a quick fix, many people don't realize how long caffeine sticks around.

Once caffeine gets into the system, the body uses or gets rid of it at a rate of half of the present amount every three to five hours. That means that if you drink two cups of coffee at two o'clock, at five o'clock, you have the same level of caffeine in your body that you would if you had just had one cup.

It is also important to understand how much caffeine comes from which sources. Energy drinks usually have the most caffeine, followed by some sodas. Then regular coffee and some sodas, followed by black tea, green tea, and finally decaffeinated coffee - which does still have some caffeine. Because caffeine is not a naturally occurring substance in soda, decaffeinated sodas are genuine "Caffeine-free." Similarly, herbal teas made from plants like mint or chamomile are naturally caffeine-free and may help you to fall asleep if you drink them before bed.

Dark chocolate also has some naturally occurring caffeine but don't worry - it's not enough to impact sleep for most people.

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Narcolepsy is a very rare condition. You might lose control of your muscles when you feel some emotions strongly. You may jump immediately into REM sleep and have vivid dreams. You might not get a full night's sleep, but when you sleep during the day, you wake up refreshed. If these symptoms sound just a bit different from what you're experiencing, you might have a condition called idiopathic hypersomnia. That disorder can also cause you to be excessively sleepy during the daytime as well as at night. Tell your healthcare provider about these symptoms to be referred to a sleep specialist for diagnosis and treatment to restore your normal sleep patterns and life.

Depression and Anxiety

Feeling sleepy during the day may be a symptom of depression. Understand that depression has both emotional and physical components. The sleepiness may fulfill a desire to escape; it could be because depression tends to slow down your system.

Similarly, Anxiety can make you want to sleep the day away. Or, you might take a nap one day when you're feeling anxious and find yourself feeling calmer after your nap. Napping can become a crutch that allows you to avoid dealing with your anxiety. If you feel anxious before you feel sleepy, a counselor can help you take the next steps. On the other hand, anxiety can also make you so stressed that you have trouble falling asleep or try to stay up later.

If you think that you might have depression or anxiety, consider talking to a healthcare provider, therapist or counselor. Keep in mind that depression and anxiety have to stick around for a couple of weeks to be diagnosed. Feelings of depression or anxiety occur naturally from time to time for everyone, especially after significant life changes like a new job or the loss of a loved one. While feelings of depression and anxiety from these symptoms may not be immediately treatable by your healthcare provider, a therapist or a counselor will be able to help you through these emotions even if they aren't symptoms of an emotional disorder.

How to Find Out 'Why Am I Sleepy All the Time?'

If you're feeling sleepy and don't know why it can be hard to find the right person to help you. Online therapists that can help you choose the right starting point with the right professional. If your sleepiness is related to depression or anxiety, they can help you find ways to improve your mood. Remember: the feeling of sleepiness doesn't mean you're lazy. It simply means you haven't found a way to stay alert.

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