Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.


Drowsiness Overview

What is the medical significance of drowsiness?
It is normal to experience drowsiness from time to time. Normal factors that can make you drowsy include a lack of sleep, boredom, stress, alcohol use, and some medications. Overall, alcohol may be the most common cause of drowsiness. Drowsiness is a common drug side effect of antidepressants, narcotic pain medications, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications. However, many illnesses also cause drowsiness. Drowsiness is worrisome when it becomes persistent or severe. Lethargy is another name for severe drowsiness. Serious causes of severe drowsiness include drug overdose, encephalitis, meningitis, stroke, brain tumor, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and concussion.

What symptoms can be associated with drowsiness?
Symptoms that may occur with mild drowsiness include body aches, fatigue, or a mild headache. Symptoms that may occur with serious drowsiness include confusion, vision problems, muscle weakness, speech difficulty, numbness and tingling, fever, vomiting, neck pain, and severe headache.

How does the doctor treat drowsiness?
Mild drowsiness usually improves if you get enough sleep, and you avoid alcohol or medications that make you sleepy. Treatment for severe drowsiness depends on the underlying cause, but may include, glucose, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, or medication.

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