Skip to Content

Does sepsis make you sleepy?

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs. It can lead to severe complications and even death if not treated promptly. While sepsis primarily affects the body’s physiological systems, it can also have long-term physical and psychological effects. One such effect is excessive tiredness or sleepiness, which is a common symptom of post-sepsis syndrome. In this article, we will explore the relationship between sepsis and sleepiness, the factors contributing to sleepiness in sepsis patients, the physiological mechanisms behind it, and the diagnosis and management of sleepiness in sepsis survivors.

The Relationship Between Sepsis and Sleepiness

Explaining the symptoms of sepsis

Before delving into the relationship between sepsis and sleepiness, it is important to understand the symptoms of sepsis itself. Sepsis is characterized by a combination of symptoms such as fever, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and altered mental state. These symptoms can cause fatigue and exhaustion, which can contribute to sleepiness.

Physical and psychological impact of sepsis

Sepsis not only affects the body physically but also has significant psychological effects. The trauma of being critically ill and undergoing intensive medical interventions can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These psychological factors can also contribute to sleep disturbances and excessive tiredness in sepsis survivors.

Lethargy and excessive tiredness as a symptom of post-sepsis syndrome

Many individuals who survive sepsis continue to experience long-term physical and psychological problems, collectively known as post-sepsis syndrome. A common symptom of this syndrome is feeling lethargic or excessively tired. This persistent sleepiness can impact the individual’s quality of life and daily functioning.

Factors Contributing to Sleepiness in Sepsis Patients

Systemic inflammation and its effects on sleep

Sepsis triggers a systemic inflammatory response in the body, which can disrupt normal sleep patterns. Inflammatory molecules released during sepsis can interfere with the regulation of sleep-wake cycles, leading to sleep disturbances and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Disrupted sleep patterns during hospitalization

Hospitalization for sepsis often involves frequent medical interventions, such as blood tests, medications, and vital sign assessments. These disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle can disturb the natural sleep patterns and contribute to sleepiness in sepsis patients.

Psychological trauma and its impact on sleep quality

The psychological trauma experienced during sepsis, including being critically ill and facing the possibility of death, can have a profound impact on sleep quality. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD can all contribute to insomnia and sleep disturbances, leading to excessive tiredness during the day.

The Physiological Mechanisms Behind Sleepiness in Sepsis

Impact of sepsis on the central nervous system

Sepsis can affect the central nervous system, leading to alterations in brain function. These changes can disrupt the regulation of sleep-wake cycles and contribute to sleepiness in sepsis patients.

Neurotransmitter imbalances and their relation to sleepiness

Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, have been observed in sepsis patients. These imbalances can affect mood, cognition, and sleep regulation, leading to excessive tiredness.

Hormonal changes and their influence on sleep regulation

Sepsis can also impact the hormonal balance in the body, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can disrupt sleep patterns, while melatonin, the hormone responsible for promoting sleep, may be altered in sepsis patients, further contributing to sleepiness.

Diagnosis and Management of Sleepiness in Sepsis Patients

Recognizing and assessing sleepiness symptoms

Healthcare professionals play a vital role in diagnosing and assessing sleepiness in sepsis survivors. They can use various tools, such as sleep questionnaires and sleep diaries, to evaluate the severity and impact of sleepiness on the individual’s daily life.

Collaborative efforts between healthcare professionals

A multidisciplinary approach is necessary to address sleepiness in sepsis patients. Collaboration between physicians, nurses, psychologists, and sleep specialists can ensure comprehensive care and management of sleep-related issues.

Treatment options and interventions for sleepiness management

There are several treatment options and interventions available to manage sleepiness in sepsis survivors. These include improving sleep hygiene, cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), medication management, and addressing underlying psychological issues.

Long-Term Effects of Sleepiness in Sepsis Survivors

Impact on overall quality of life and daily functioning

Excessive sleepiness and fatigue can significantly impact the overall quality of life and daily functioning of sepsis survivors. It can limit their ability to perform tasks, engage in social activities, and negatively affect relationships.

Emotional and psychological implications

Sleepiness can also have emotional and psychological implications. Sepsis survivors may experience frustration, irritability, and an overall decline in emotional well-being due to the constant feeling of tiredness.

Strategies for coping with sleepiness and improving sleep hygiene

Individuals who have survived sepsis can adopt various strategies to cope with sleepiness and improve their sleep hygiene. This may include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime.


Sepsis can have long-lasting effects on both the physical and psychological well-being of survivors. Excessive tiredness and sleepiness are common symptoms experienced by sepsis survivors, impacting their daily life and overall quality of life. Recognizing and addressing the sleepiness in sepsis patients is essential for their recovery and rehabilitation. Healthcare professionals must take a comprehensive approach and explore various treatment options to manage sleepiness and improve the well-being of sepsis survivors. Additionally, further research is needed to better understand the underlying mechanisms of sleepiness in sepsis and develop more effective interventions for its management.


  1. Symptoms | Sepsis Alliance
  2. Recognising the signs and symptoms of sepsis
  3. Sepsis – what it is and triggers like septicaemia and blood …
  4. Sepsis Infection: Symptoms You Need to Know
  5. Treatment and recovery from sepsis