I am always tired and I fall asleep very easily at inappropriate times. For instance, I go to a movie and I can’t sit through the entire thing without falling asleep. The minute I get still, I’m asleep. This is causing problems with my marriage. What can I do?
Many sleep specialists feel that many, if not most people, in our hurried, achievement-oriented culture are sleep deprived, and it certainly sounds as though you may be one of them.
The amount of sleep an individual needs to feel good and function well varies considerably from person to person. The standard eight hours per night may not be adequate for many. In addition the type of sleep experienced, and its quality, is more important than quantity. Furthermore the amount and quality of sleep changes with age, with many medical conditions, and with drug or alcohol use, which will modify the quality of sleep.
A lot of people, including me, tend to fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon. Although some people and some doctors will blame this on hypoglycemia, there are no good studies which confirm this. Many Latin cultures have incorporated the need to sleep in the afternoon in their daily schedule with a long afternoon siesta, after which businesses reopen. This allows them to stay up later at night. The pressures of the modern competitive world will probably put an end to this healthy habit within the next generation.
Studies of people kept in isolation from stimuli which would tell them what time it is, in a sleep lab for instance, have shown that many subjects will sleep for a bit more than eight hours per day, in two periods, that is to say, a short night sleep and a long day nap.
If your schedule will permit it, try to take a nap every day, even half an hour may help. If that’s not possible, try for an earlier bedtime. Try to get some regular aerobic exercise, which may improve the quality of your sleep. If your spouse says that you snore and jump during sleep, you may be suffering from frequent periods of sleep apnea, periods during sleep when you literally stop breathing for a moment. This leads to very poor quality of sleep, and may make you feel tired all the time. Sleep apnea can be treated, and you may not be aware yourself that you have it.