Possible Causes of Excessive Sleepiness

Everyone experiences excessive sleepiness at some point and lounging on a bed or a comfy sofa feels just like heaven. However, you may be wondering why you're so tired, as there's no apparent reason to be so. Continue reading to find out the possible causes. 
Possible Causes of Excessive Sleepiness
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 February, 2022

“I’m experiencing excessive sleepiness and all I want to do is close my eyes and let my blankets embrace me. I don’t want to think about anything. I don’t want to do anything.” Does this sound like you? Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s well-known character, pointed out that sleep is almost always the solution to most ills and worries. Sleeping is also an escape route for some people.

Allowing oneself to fall into a state of unconsciousness in which the body and mind are inactive is definitely healthy. However, proper rest must respect circadian rhythms and not exceed eight-nine hours a day. This is because, beyond what you may think, sleeping excessively can be bad for your health.

Life is balance and one must adapt to a series of biorhythms. You must be aware of your body’s needs. Suddenly needing more hours of sleep than usual isn’t normal. Therefore, you must figure out what are the underlying causes.

A man asleep.

Causes of excessive sleepiness

Sleeping too much isn’t healthy. In fact, most people have experienced the feeling of waking up after a ten or 11-hour break and feeling sleepier than usual at some point. Moreover, studies such as this one conducted at the Stanford University of Medicine reveal meaningful things about this subject.

Sleeping more than nine hours affects your quality of life and can lead to a bad performance at work, at school, and even with your friends and family. Excessive sleep leads to a sedentary lifestyle and increases the risk of cardiovascular and brain diseases. This is a fact to keep in mind.

Thus, feeling like all you want to do is sleep is an indicator of an underlying problem and you must be aware of it in order to manage it properly.

Stress and accumulated fatigue

Most people go through periods of intense pressure at work, increased family demands, and worries. The body and mind will get caught in a state of hyperactivity and wear and tear if this situation continues beyond a week.

Eventually, there comes a time when the brain will only demand one thing: rest. These are the moments when you have no choice but to give your body what it needs.

Underlying diseases

The World Sleep Society claims that the need for constant sleep is an indicator of an underlying disease. In most cases, sleep disorders are linked to physical disorders and this is something everyone must keep in mind. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

The common problems associated with excessive sleepiness are usually:

  • Hormonal alterations. Hypothyroidism is associated with extreme tiredness as well as excessive fatigue. These indicators are red alerts you must be aware of.
  • Nocturnal insufficient dream. Many people sleep poorly at night. Thus, they’re particularly tired in the morning and they just want to sleep.
  • Narcolepsy. There are some categories defined by hypersomnia, excessive sleepiness, within the upheavals of sleeping. Narcolepsy could be one of the triggers. It’s a neurological disease that makes a person lose control over falling asleep anytime and anywhere.
  • Kleine-Levin syndrome. This is a rare disorder that afflicts male adolescents mainly. Its main characteristics are hyperphagia, aggressiveness, and hypersexuality.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.  A person experiences small obstructions in their breathing patterns throughout the night in this disease. Thus, in addition to snoring, it’s very common for them to feel intense daytime hypersomnia.

Sleeping as a form of escape and not out of necessity

Hypersomnia is different from a voluntary desire to sleep as an escape mechanism. The first one defines a physiological need motivated by a physiological or metabolic disturbance (such as hypothyroidism). The second, however, is common when a person feels mentally saturated.

It’s also a way to escape from responsibilities. In other words, “I have too many things to do. Everything is piling up and I don’t know where to start but all I want to do right now is sleep”. Procrastination is behind this behavior and often even anxiety that the person isn’t handling as they should.

Excessive sleepiness could be a form of covert depression

In a study by the University of Bristol in the UK, researchers discuss the evident relationship between sleep disorders and depression. Thus, either insomnia or hypersomnia could be recurrent manifestations among those afflicted by this mood disorder.

It’s common to want to lounge on a bed or sofa and sleep as a way to evade reality. Depressed people want to stop feeling pain and being who they are and, thus, sleep to escape.

A woman sleeping on her face.

Strategy against excessive sleepiness

The best thing to do in all cases is to consult your doctor, who might be able to explain why you’re so sleepy. There are times when the body demands rest but, often, it’s the mind that longs for a pillow in which to hide from worries or emotional problems.

Have you been experiencing excessive sleepiness for some time? If so, you should consider the following:

  • Keep in mind that sleeping more than nine hours a day will affect your health and you’ll be even more tired.
  • The best thing you can do is have a routine and a fixed schedule. You must go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle and do the daily activities you enjoy. Exercise or do some kind of craft to helps focus attention.
  • Sunbathe whenever possible (and with adequate protection). Light therapy adjusts your circadian rhythms and improves your sleep hygiene.

To conclude, keep in mind that good quality rest always translates into a good quality of life. As you can see, your physical and mental health both depend on it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ohayon, M. M., Reynolds, C. F., & Dauvilliers, Y. (2013). Excessive sleep duration and quality of life. Annals of Neurology73(6), 785–794. https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.23818
  • Troxler, T., Feuerbach, D., Zhang, X., Yang, C. R., Lagu, B., Perrone, M., … Auberson, Y. P. (2019). The Discovery of LML134, a Histamine H3 Receptor Inverse Agonist for the Clinical Treatment of Excessive Sleep Disorders. ChemMedChem14(13), 1238–1247. https://doi.org/10.1002/cmdc.201900176
  • Mahowald MW, Schenck CH. Insights from studying human sleep disorders. Nature 2005; 437: 1279-1285.
  • Dauvilliers Y. Differential diagnosis in hypersomnia. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 2006; 6: 156-162.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.