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Sudden Excessive Sleepiness in Elderly – Sleep difficulties are one of the multiple health issues associated with aging. In reality, inadequate sleep can exacerbate many of these issues and reduce a person’s quality of life after age 65.

Understanding how aging affects overall health is more crucial than ever to meet the unique requirements of elderly people. Since we spend roughly one-third of our lives sleeping, understanding how aging and sleep interact is essential to promote senior citizens’ general health.

Sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly requires medical treatment due to its pathologic origins and various adverse effects on health. Elderly adults’ excessive sleepiness is frequently multifactorial. It may indicate an underlying sleep disease, a long-term medical condition, an unidentified mental disorder, or longstanding drug side effects. It is linked to a higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment in the elderly.

Adopting a systematic, step-by-step treatment approach focused on the underlying cause and directly addressing excessive sleepiness in older adults is essential.

Reasons for Sudden Excessive Sleepiness in Elderly

As you age, it is prevalent to grow tired more quickly. But suddenly, feeling exhausted or lacking sufficient energy to go through the day could indicate a hidden medical issue.

According to David Cutler, MD, a family medicine specialist at Providence Saint Johns Health Center in Santa Monica, California;

“There are various causes of fatigue that can range from mild to severe and can have abrupt onset. A noticeable change in energy or wakefulness that lasts despite taking steps to relax and care for yourself may need additional medical assessment, even when regular exhaustion is common.”

Here are seven causes of sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly and remedies to restore your energy levels to normal.

1. New or Long-standing Drug Regime

According to Harvard Health Publishing, fatigue is a frequent adverse effect of several over-the-counter and prescription medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines, sleep aids, nausea medications, opioids, muscle relaxants, and alpha and beta blockers.

As we age, the body’s metabolism and fat concentration alter, rendering older persons more susceptible to the adverse effects of some medications based on a drug’s mechanism of action.

2. Surgical Recovery Period or Ongoing Medical Treatment

According to the National Institute on Aging, medical procedures like chemotherapy or radiation might leave you feeling exhausted.

Ankur Patel, MD, a geriatrician with a practice in Richmond, Virginia, and the author of ‘Age Is Just a Number,’ adds that if you are recuperating from surgery or medical treatment, you will also feel more exhausted than usual.

In addition to the energy your body is using to heal, you can also be prescribed new medications after surgery, some of which have side effects, including sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly.

3. An Underlying Infection

According to Dr. Patel, illnesses like the flu, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections can all make you fatigued because your body uses more energy to fight the germs. Additionally, these issues might occasionally go undetected and result in sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly people.

Dr. Patel continues, “Patients may not talk to their physicians or doctors because older persons often have ambiguous symptoms.”

4. Anxiety or Panic Attacks

According to the National Institute on Aging, overwhelming emotions can occasionally appear as physical symptoms like abrupt, acute exhaustion, and depressive symptoms can become more prevalent as people age.

Dr. Cutler states, older people may experience loneliness, bereavement, or fear about the future, all of which frequently go undetected and can lead to exhaustion and sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly.

5. Nutritional Deficiency

According to the Mayo Clinic, low iron levels, which can happen when a person has iron-deficiency anemia, can make them feel lethargic and frail. According to Dr. Patel, not getting enough vitamin D and B12 can have a similar effect.

All ages can experience this weariness, but according to the latest research articles, older adults are at higher risk of not getting the nutrients they essentially require.

6. Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea may experience breathing problems while asleep, leading them to wake up frequently during the night. According to the Food and Drug Administration, this can result in extreme daytime and sudden excessive sleepiness in the elderly. Even after a full night’s sleep and mood swings, difficulty concentrating and waking up with a headache or dry throat.

Furthermore, older people are more susceptible to the illness because, as Dr. Patel states, “as a person ages, the muscles weaken, notably in the neck and airways.” A person’s airways may get blocked, as a result, disrupting their sleep and their ability to breathe normally.

7. Persistent Chronic Illness

Dr. Cutler believes exhaustion is a symptom of many ailments, including hormonal imbalances, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and cardiac, lung, and heart problems.

If other causes of weakness or poor energy have been ruled out and an older person is sleeping a lot, that could indicate a serious underlying health issue or an underlying health issue that is not well-controlled.

How to Manage Sudden Excessive Sleepiness in Elderly? 

In most cases, an underlying health issue is what causes sudden, severe, or overwhelming tiredness or sleepiness.

According to Dr. Cutler, “curing the exhaustion frequently entails addressing the underlying illness that is creating the sensation of fatigue.”

For instance, when a person consumes enough of the vitamin or mineral they require, fatigue brought on by a nutrient shortage may improve. With treatment to address breathing disturbances, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, fatigue caused by sleep apnea usually goes away.

Lifestyle changes can be a supporting factor. According to the National Institute of Aging, regular exercise can increase your vitality, particularly in activities that require balance and breathing, like tai chi or yoga. Keeping daytime naps to 30 minutes can also be beneficial because longer naps can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Ask for family or friend’s assistance if you feel too exhausted to do your everyday tasks. Your energy will be further depleted if you push yourself to finish everything.

Perpetuating Sleep Hygiene for Sudden Excessive Sleepiness in Elderly

According to research, age-related sleep problems can be improved by taking particular steps. These steps frequently focus on enhancing sleep hygiene and creating routines that promote restful sleep. Here are some key tips for having a better night’s sleep as you age.


Older adults who regularly exercise fall asleep faster, sleep longer and report better sleep quality. One of the best things elderly people can do for their health is exercise. The National Institute on Aging provides sound advice on exercising safely as you age.

Reduce distractions in the bedroom

TVs, phones, and bright lights might interfere with getting sound sleep. Attempt to avoid falling asleep with the television on by keeping it in a different room. Remove all technology from the bedroom, and just use it when it is necessary.

Avoid sleep-inhibiting substances

Alcohol, smoking, caffeine, and even heavy meals eaten late in the day or night might make falling asleep more difficult. Consider giving up smoking, consuming less caffeine, and eating dinner at least four hours before going to bed.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Keep in mind that it gets harder to catch up on lost sleep as you age. Don’t make abrupt adjustments to your sleep regimen. This entails maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time and exercising with caution when taking extended naps.

Establish a bedtime schedule

Find relaxation-promoting chores to do before bed. Many elderly people appreciate taking a bath, reading, or seeking peace and calm before going to bed.

Treatment for Sudden Excessive Sleepiness in Elderly

Medications combined with other types of therapies, treatments, and behavior modifications are often suggested for elderly people with excessive sleepiness. Below are some common medications for excessive sleeping in the elderly.


It is a wake-promoting agent that can be used to treat narcolepsy and sleep apnea.


Its receptor agonists are hypnotics that can assist with nighttime sleep.


It is an over-the-counter supplement that helps one fall asleep and wake up on time.


It encourages alertness.


It can be used to treat narcolepsy and residual sleepiness.

Sodium oxybate

It is used to treat narcolepsy and limit sleep interruptions at night time.


You should consult a doctor if you are feeling tired all the time, if excessive daytime sleepiness is affecting your regular lifestyle, or if you believe it might be a sign of an underlying disorder.

Your doctor will run tests and ask questions about your sleep habits to pinpoint why you are excessively sleepy. They will also ask your partner in bed whether you gasp, snore, or move your legs during the night. If the doctor suspects a sleep disorder, they may refer you to a sleep specialist to run more tests.

Treatment methods for sudden excessive sleepiness in elderly are directly dependent on the cause. The doctor will likely start by recommending sleep hygiene tips and encouraging you to get more sleep. Your physician will also adjust your medications and work with you to develop a treatment plan for underlying disorders, which may need to be treated independently.

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