Hard to fall asleep and can't wake up

This question was asked in Kelso, Washington on 02/24/2012.
No known symptoms of sleep apnea, but have a hard time getting to sleep, when I fall asleep its almost impossible to wake me up and an alarm doesn't work. No matter what if I just sleep until I wake up I will sleep 12 hours every time, and no matter how much sleep I get I'm still exhausted all day every day for as long as I can remember and I'm 25. I have 2 kids in school and no one to wake me up anymore. I can't sleep for 12 hours and take care of them, but I can't wake up to take them to school. Please help I don't know what to do but I need to do something!

Doctors Answers (2)

Farhad Sigari, MD, FACS
Answered on: 2/24/2012

Be seen! One of the most unique statistics of sleep apnea is that 90% of the people who have it don't know it yet or it hasn't been properly diagnosed. The complaints you describe could very well be sleep apnea (many of my sleep apnea patients have the same complaint and didn't know it in the beginning). Or it could be a more complex issue. Patients like yourself benefit greatly from a detailed visit with a Sleep Physician and most likely will require an overnight sleep study to get the proper diagnosis. The benefit of the sleep study is that it is a very comprehensive evaluation of your sleep and we can often extract a significant amount of information from it. It seems like it is affecting your quality of life significantly and patients like yourselves really need to take that first step and be seen by a Sleep Physician.

If you are having trouble falling asleep and are sleeping for 12 hours and still tired during the day you may have a hypersomnic sleep disorder like Narcolepsy or Idiopathic hypersomnia. You should consult with a sleep specialist in your area to get a general physical exam, some lab work and to of course give a more detailed sleep history and take sleep logs. It sounds like you potentially could be studied with an overnight polysomnogram in the lab followed up the next day by a series of naps spaced apart by 2 hours called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test. This will quantify how sleepy you are during the day to see if medication or other therapies may be necessary to treat your problem. I strongly caution you not to drive long distances especially with the children in the car if you are sleepy and to get this addressed with a sleep physician as soon as possible. In the meantime, refrain from drinking alcohol and try to keep a uniform bedtime and rise time daily and schedule nap times when the kids are in school in the late morning and afternoon before they come home so you wont be so tired.