Home About AllHealth Website Sitemap Contact Us
All Health 
You are here: Home > Old Medical Ref > Old Symptom Finder > drowsiness



Alternative Names 

Drowsiness is a state of decreased awareness or alertness associated with a desire or tendency to fall asleep.

What is going on in the body? 
Almost everyone has felt drowsy before, usually due to normal tiredness from a long day or lack of sleep. There are other causes of this condition as well. Most of the causes are not serious, but some are life threatening.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
When someone complains of abnormal drowsiness, the doctor will ask questions, such as:
  • how long it has been present
  • whether it occurs all day every day or only on some days
  • whether it is getting worse, better, or staying the same
  • the number of hours of sleep the person gets every night and whether there is any trouble with sleeping
  • the amount of stress in the person's life
  • the amount of activity or exercise a person engages in
  • the person's diet
  • any other symptoms the person is having, such as weight loss, fever, or confusion
  • what medications, drugs, or herbs a person takes, if any
  • what other medical problems a person has, if any
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
There are many possible causes of this condition, including: Other causes are also possible. Sometimes no cause can be found.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Avoiding stress and overexertion, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet can prevent many cases of drowsiness. Avoidance of alcohol and medications that cause drowsiness can avoid cases due to these causes. Maintaining a normal weight and avoiding obesity can sometimes prevent sleep apnoea. Many causes cannot be prevented.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
After a physical examination, the doctor may order further tests. A chest x-ray may be done if lung disease is thought to be the cause. A sleep study, called polysomnography, may be done if sleep apnoea is suspected. A blood test called a full blood count (FBC) may be ordered if anaemia or an infection is suspected. Other tests may also be needed in some cases.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Drowsiness, when persistent, can limit a person's ability to work, go to school, and drive. Severely affected people may need to rest for most of the day. Other long-term effects depend on the cause. For instance, end-stage cancer often results in death. Cases due to a stroke may cause permanent drowsiness and other limitations from brain damage.

What are the risks to others? 
Drowsiness is not contagious and poses no risk to others. However, if the cause is an infection, such as meningitis, the infection may be contagious.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Specific treatment is directed at the cause. For instance, a person may need to get antibiotics for an infection or thyroid hormone pills for a low thyroid level. In other people, control of diabetes or other systemic disorders may be needed. A person with depression often needs medications to treat the condition. Those with cancer may need surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
All medications and surgeries have possible side effects. For instance, antibiotics may cause allergic reactions and stomach upset. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to anaesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
If the drowsiness goes away, a person may or may not need further treatment. For instance, those with kidney failure need further treatment even if their drowsiness goes away. Those who were "overdoing it" or not getting enough sleep may need no further treatment once they get some rest. Those with serious diseases, such as end-stage cancer, may die if treatment is unsuccessful.

How is the condition monitored? 
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor. The cause of drowsiness may or may not need monitoring. For instance, those with anaemia need repeat FBC blood tests to make sure the blood count returns to normal.

Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 22/02/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


Back Email a Friend View Printable Version Bookmark This Page


eknowhow | The World's Best Websites
    Privacy Policy and Disclaimer