What is it?

Somnolence is a state of a strong desire for sleep or sleeping for unusually long periods. It has distinct meanings and causes. It can refer to the usual state preceding falling asleep, the condition of being in an exhausted state due to circadian rhythm disorders, or a symptom of other health problems. It can be accompanied by lethargy, weakness, and lack of mental agility.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Sleepiness

Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of somnolence may include loss of energy, fatigue, weariness, and difficulty remembering or concentrating.


Quantifying sleepiness requires a careful assessment. The diagnosis depends on two factors, namely chronicity, and reversibility. Chronicity signifies that the patient, unlike healthy people, experiences persistent sleepiness, which does not pass. Reversibility shows that even if the individual sleeps, the tiredness may not be gone entirely after waking up. A good measurement tool is the multiple sleep latency test MSLT. It assesses the sleep onset latency during one day- often from 8:00 to 16:00. An average sleep onset latency of less than 5 minutes indicates pathological sleepiness.


Somnolence is a symptom so the treatment will depend on its cause. If the reason is the behavior and life choices of the patient (like working long hours, smoking, mental state), it may help to get plenty of rest and get rid of distractions. It is also essential to investigate what is causing the problem, such as stress or anxiety, and take steps to reduce the feeling.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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