Let’s face it. Our lives pretty much revolve around sleeping. We need to get home by a particular time to sleep well, we need to tuck ourselves in a particular way to get the rest we need, and we can’t function properly without appropriate doze-time. Of course, certain stages in life are an exception and require you to sleep more such as infancy, illness, pregnancy and old age.
But what if whatever amount of sleep you get, it just doesn’t seem to be enough? Do you press the snooze button till as long as you can? Do you struggle with sleepiness throughout the day? Is it getting in the way of your life? If you’ve nodded along to these questions, you need a game plan.
Sleepiness can be a serious hazard and lead to unpleasant situations. You may find yourself dozing off on a boring date or be involved in an accident if you fall asleep behind the wheel. Driver sleepiness is actually a causative factor in 1-3 percent of all US motor vehicle crashes, with 96 percent of sleep-related crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers.1
It’s something that needs to be taken seriously and the issue needs to be addressed.
Exactly How Sleepy Are You?
So how can you figure out whether your sleepiness is average or abnormal? Scientists have developed a way to determine that through the Epworth Sleepiness Scale that can tell you whether you need medical attention for daytime sleepiness or not. All you need to do is rate yourself on some questions with the following scores:
No chance of dozing = 0
Slight chance of dozing = 1
Moderate chance of dozing = 2
High chance of dozing = 3
- Watching TV.
- Sitting inactive in a public place.
- As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break.
- Lying down to rest in the afternoon when circumstances permit.
- Sitting and talking to someone.
- Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol.
- In a car, while stopped for a few moments in traffic.
- Sitting and reading.
If you score above 10, you may require medical attention and if the score is above 16, you shouldn’t delay and get help immediately.2
Ways To Fight Excess Sleepiness
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1. Go Easy On The Coffee
If you struggle with sleepiness, you’re probably guzzling a couple of cups of coffee every day to stay awake. However, this short-term solution has long-term effects on your sleep quality and quantity. A research concluded that regular caffeinated coffee, compared to decaf versions, decreased the total amount of sleep and quality of sleep. In addition, it increases the length of time of sleep induction. Coffee also interferes with the secretion of melatonin, the principal hormone responsible for the synchronization of sleep.3
If you must have coffee despite sleep issues, it is better to have it in the morning so that the effect can wear off by night-time.
2. Avoid Monotonous And Boring Work
Nothing sets in sleepiness more than redundancy. When you are doing the same thing on loop, you’re bound to not pay any attention. It is very natural for you to feel drowsy. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research actually reported that monotonous work, though does not contribute significantly to sleepiness, is at least as harmful as moderate sleep debt for alertness at work. Take a break and do something stimulating to keep your mind awake.4
3. Sneak In A Power Nap
There’s a reason why Google and some other companies let people sleep on the job. If your office doesn’t have the luxury of Sleep Pods like Google, you can fix yourself a power nap by wearing an eye mask and setting an alarm (on vibrate). Ideal naps should be at least six hours before your actual bedtime and last for about five to 25 minutes.
Naps refresh you and work in maintaining and improving subsequent performance, physiological and subjective alertness as well as mood.5
4. Get Moving
Yes, when you feel sleepy, do the opposite. Increasing physical activity improves the overall quality of sleep. So when you sleep better at night, you won’t feel so drowsy and sluggish during the day. According to a study, physically active elderly women were compared with sedentary women. The physically active group not only slept longer but also scored high on the sleep quality scale than the sedentary group.6
5. Turn Up The Lights
To fend off daytime sleepiness, it is a good idea to expose yourself to some sunlight or bright lights. Researchers studied the impact of the same on 16 subjects after restricted sleep for two nights. It was observed that bright lights reduced sleepiness as well as slow eye movements in the participants. Bright lights also improved their behavioral alertness. So next time you find yourself yawning, turn up the lights. Better still, go get some sun.7
6. Boost Energy With Right Food
While coffee and energy drinks can trick your body into thinking its alert and awake, some foods can actually boost your energy and keep you awake and active through the day. Planning a good mix of carbs and protein with enough dairy and fruits and vegetables for your meals is a good strategy. Have a wholesome breakfast and choose food that have slow-burning starch or complex carbs and also foods rich in iron is found to be good to keep tiredness at bay.8
As you can see, fighting sleepiness is not very difficult. But if it gets out of hand, you might want to consult your physician without much delay.
|↑1||Lyznicki, James M., Theodore C. Doege, Ronald M. Davis, and Michael A. Williams. “Sleepiness, driving, and motor vehicle crashes.” Jama 279, no. 23 (1998): 1908-1913.|
|↑2||You, How Sleepy Are. “Epworth Sleepiness Scale.”.|
|↑3||Shilo, Lotan, Hussam Sabbah, Ruth Hadari, Susy Kovatz, Uzi Weinberg, Sara Dolev, Yaron Dagan, and Louis Shenkman. “The effects of coffee consumption on sleep and melatonin secretion.” Sleep medicine 3, no. 3 (2002): 271-273.|
|↑4||Sallinen, Mikael, Mikko Härmä, Ritva Akila, Anu Holm, Ritva Luukkonen, Hannu Mikola, Kiti Müller, and Jussi Virkkala. “The effects of sleep debt and monotonous work on sleepiness and performance during a 12‐h dayshift.” Journal of Sleep Research 13, no. 4 (2004): 285-294.|
|↑5||Rosekind, M. R., R. M. Smith, D. L. Miller, E. L. Co, K. B. Gregory, L. L. Webbon, P. H. Gander, and J. V. Lebacqz. “Alertness management: strategic naps in operational settings.” Journal of sleep research 4, no. S2 (1995): 62-66.|
|↑6||Guimaraes, Laiz Helena de Castro Toledo, Luciane Bizari Coin de Carvalho, Gianni Yanaguibashi, and Gilmar Fernandes do Prado. “Physically active elderly women sleep more and better than sedentary women.” Sleep medicine 9, no. 5 (2008): 488-493.|
|↑7||Phipps-Nelson, Jo, Jennifer R. Redman, Derk-Jan Dijk, and S. M. Rajaratnam. “Daytime exposure to bright light, as compared to dim light, decreases sleepiness and improves psychomotor vigilance performance.” Sleep 26, no. 6 (2003): 695-700.|
|↑8||The Energy Diet, NHS.|