I keep falling asleep at the drop of a hat. Any advice?

I currently work as a Chief of Staff at an early stage startup. I also have a part-time (20 hrs/week) and freelance for 2 other companies.

The issue: Like the title says, I keep falling asleep. The moment I have nothing to do, I fall asleep. I can read, scroll social media, anything requiring a modicum of attention basically. But the minute I have even a little bit of time between tasks that's not occupied with something (even if it's a slightly boring Youtube video), I fall asleep.

I'm getting a bit tired of trying to schedule every minute of my day or have it be occupied with something or the other, but the moment I stop, I fall asleep for hours on end (as an example, last weekend I slept for about 11 hours on Saturday). I try to avoid caffeine (and was actually successful up until two weeks ago), since it gives me side-effects, so I'm not sure that's my best solution :(

I'm guessing my brain snatches at any non-stressful time to sleep, but I wonder if there's a better way to do this.

Any advice would be much, MUCH appreciated!! Thank you!

dipishapatel's profile thumbnail
hi @youlanda23 try taking a quick walk in between breaks. Movement is supposed to help keep our mind and body active throughout the day. Also trying to sleep ~7 hours every night should help!
Thank you, @dipishapatel! My partner and I just (like literally 30 minutes ago) made a resolution to go on walks together at a set time everyday after reading your suggestion.
iynna's profile thumbnail
You sound like you have a lot on your plate, a full time job, some freelance and part time!Would you ever try to scale down a bit your commitment or make yourself go to bed early to have complete nights? I used to have that a few years ago and it's just because I was exhausted and my body was catching up!
Thanks, @iynna! I'm not sure I can scale down right now, but I can definitely try to have a few days where I force myself to sleep extra early!
milynaphillips's profile thumbnail
Hi @youlanda23, sounds like you may be overwhelmed (with 3 jobs) and your body is shutting down when your brain isn't being stimulated. Have you talked to or recently seen the health care professionals in your life- PCP or therapist? I would begin there. If you are able, do you work out? When is the last time you took a proper vacation?
I haven't seen a healthcare professional! I keep meaning to, it may finally be time :) And you may have a point re: working out and vacations. I'm trying to work out more, but I also did recently have a meltdown when I tried to ask my boss for a day off, so I think there's clearly something off there. Thanks - I'm connecting a few dots!
dipishapatel's profile thumbnail
It sounds like you are in a tough situation. Give yourself some credit for getting through it all and try not to feel guilty for taking downtime for yourself!
Hi, sorry to hear about this.I'd call your doctor, now. Do a full exam, run labs, and determine if you need a sleep study. You could be setting yourself up for minor or major accidents at home and elsewhere.There may be a physiological cause, such as sleep apnea or low vitamin / mineral / hormone situation.
You may be right, thanks! I do have a member in my family with sleep apnea - it might be related.
ruthann's profile thumbnail
I agree with @Almeta95. It is not normal to fall asleep in between tasks like that. It almost sounds like you could have narcolepsy. I recommend that you see your doctor for an exam, blood work and a sleep study. I would not drive until you've had the work up.
patriciavanritten's profile thumbnail
Definitely include an IRON check. Here we can get an iron check done at the chemist - just one drop of blood, (no huge needles amd vials of blood), no doctors referral. It costs a whole $5! Might be worth asking at a chemist where you are.
nayantara's profile thumbnail
It might be worth checking to see if you have a vitamin D deficiency! This happened to a friend of mine, and once she corrected her vitamin D levels she stopped falling asleep all the time.
This is great, thank you!
MurderSheWrote's profile thumbnail
Your body is talking to you, my friend. Listen. Go to a doctor to help translate, but I strongly and warmly advise you to shift focus from trying to overcome this phenomenon, to actually understanding and honoring this phenomenon. Our bodies intelligence is way higher and much more underexplained that the one of our conscious brains. I always say to trust what our bodies say first, and try to make sense of it with the brain after. Trying to override it is usually a futile exercise. Take care of yourself!
Thank you, @MurderSheWrote! (P.S. love the username!)
LaniAssaf's profile thumbnail
This ❤️
How much sleep do you usually get per night? And do you usually sleep a different number of hours on weekend nights to catch up on sleep?(You can/should see a doctor, but in my experience they’ll just tell you to quit your job.)
Hm, I'm not quite sure. I'd say around 5-6 hours. And then 10+ on weekends. I hope not - my experience with doctors recently has been a bit odd (my neurologist for instance recommending pills to help me with fertility even though I've blatantly said I'm uninterested etc.). So maybe I can find a doctor who will listen!
Well then it’s not some big mystery! For example, if you got 5 hours for 5 nights/week and 12 hours for 2 nights/week, that averages out to 7 hours/night for the entire week. (I know these aren’t your exact numbers, but you get the idea.) That is how much sleep your body naturally wants/needs. If you were getting enough sleep during the week, you wouldn’t need to sleep in on weekends. I’ve met some people who truly only need 4 hours/night, but those people are unusual and this probably isn’t something you can change about yourself.I’m familiar with your issue because I used to be in your situation when I worked in finance, and then when I switched to doing a startup and having control over my sleep, the issues were pretty much resolved.I’d also observe that it gets harder to stay awake as you age. In my early 20s, I was fully conscious of my decision to go to sleep in night. Then in my late 20s, I’d drift off while lying in bed. And in my 30s, I get very strong signals from my body when it needs sleep. It sounds like that is what’s happening to you.Certainly do find a doctor who you get along with well, but I suspect they are just going to tell you to get more sleep during the week or to try to sleep the same amount on weekdays and weekends. Keep in mind that any doctor you see would have spent their residency pulling 24-hour shifts, so they should comprehend the idea of sacrificing sleep to advance your career. But they are still likely to advocate for you to find a way to make your sleep schedule sustainable.
So the sleeping math definitely checks out. What I'm concerned about is that I just...fall asleep randomly. I could have been super active a minute ago, talking my head off with a friend, and the minute they hang up, I'm (essentially) snoring. The minute my brain has some downtime, it just crashes. So I'm wondering more if there's a way to regulate that.Yep, definitely going to find a good PCP - seems like the first order of business! Thank you :)
tzwerling's profile thumbnail
I second Almeta95's advice. Get a sleep study done and other labs to see if there are underlying biological issues at play. Both of my folks have experienced this behavior and found that they had sleep apnea. It's totally treatable.
I think I will - this makes sense!
emilypatterson's profile thumbnail
I was recently told that if you have ADHD that you're more likely to have narcolepsy type symptoms. It could also be extreme stress! When my anxiety gets out of control, I sleep a ton. Therapy is probably the best path if that's the situation.
I'll look into this, especially therapy!
MarygraceSwarts's profile thumbnail
I will echo many others that starting with your PCP and maybe a sleep study is a good idea. You may be referred for a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) which can help diagnose or eliminate narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnia.
MarygraceSwarts's profile thumbnail
Especially important - tell your dr if you start falling asleep during other things as well. I was falling asleep while working and in trainings, and while driving once - important to figure out if its impacting your daily life and or putting you in danger!
Luckily, that hasn't happened yet! But I'll keep track!
alishawilliamsco's profile thumbnail
@youlanda23 it sounds like I wrote this myself 6 months ago. I’d really love to get in touch directly, if open to it.
That would be great, Alisha! DMed you :)
AlenaD's profile thumbnail
You might look into ADHD. I was just diagnosed after 45 years without treatment and I discovered that loads of women slip through the cracks of getting diagnosed. Sleep issues are common, especially feeling sleepy during the day despite getting more than enough sleep. You may actually need that coffee/caffeine!
christinaechaplin's profile thumbnail
Sounds like potential signs of burnout and/or accumulated lack of sleep! Are you currently tracking your sleep in any way? Expert trained advice on the matter is always best, but what has worked for me is a consistent bedtime/wake-up time to ensure that I’m hitting my 7hrs a night consistently - your sleep needs might be different tho, and there is no wrong or right amount of time, just what YOUR body needs.
I don't have a sleep tracker. I'll see what's out there - thanks :)
MonikaStarzyk's profile thumbnail
I totally agree with others on checking the medical side first. I can additionally recommend tracking your sleep with SleepCycle app for a few days as this might be also an important input when sharing the story with a doctor. I know an interesting case of a person who felt like they sleep very long and well at night, but then being sleepy during the day. The SleepCycle app showed that although spending 9 hours in bed, only 3-4 h was an actual sleep (both deep and shallow).
Oh wow! That's a lot of time awake. I'll keep this in mind!
jenniferkambar's profile thumbnail
@youlanda23 Make sure you have adequate Vitamin D and B12 Levels. I was having this issue.... falling asleep in the middle of the day, could not keep my eyes open, getting 7/8hrs of sleep a night, working out daily, eating healthy.... but turns out I had no B12 or D in my system! This can affect us largely, and something too many of us don't think to even check.Also take into consideration what you are eating! I know if I eat gluten vs no gluten, dairy vs no dairy, I also see an immediate response difference in my daily sleepiness.
This is so helpful, thank you!!
milabanerjee's profile thumbnail
I also agree with go to a doctor. When I had something like this it was actually my reaction to gluten (I am celiac).
ritapalanjian's profile thumbnail
@youlanda23 I hope you can get to the bottom of this. I would imagine you would have to be like an inspector for now research and research.. I agree with all who suggest seeking medical advice. Seems like you could also be iron deficiency. If you eat meat, I believe pot roast, liver (eww) or similar foods have high iron content. Maybe your doctor could also review your diet and maybe suggest food as healing through foods. Good luck.