Hypersomnia is defined as a condition wherein a person feels incredible urge to fall asleep during the day. That’s why another term for this condition is excessive daytime sleepiness.
Numbers show that 4% to 6% of the general population has hypersomnia and it has a huge impact on their quality of life.
People often assume hypersomnia is the same thing as narcolepsy, but the reality is different.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder whose symptoms are more serious.
What causes hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is still poorly understood and more studies are needed to elucidate it thoroughly. The disorder can be either primary or secondary. Primary hypersomnia occurs on its own i.e. it is not caused by some underlying health condition. This type of hypersomnia is caused by problems in brain systems that are responsible for sleep and wake cycle.
On the other hand, secondary hypersomnia is a result of some underlying health problem such as sleep apnea, kidney failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. Due to the fact, all these conditions are associated with difficulty getting enough sleep tonight, patients get tired and feel sleepy during the day.
Many other causes can contribute to hypersomnia including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Sleep deprivation
- The family history of hypersomnia
- Some prescription drugs
Everyone can get hypersomnia, but the risk factors that increase your chances of developing this sleep disorder are:
- Having a condition that causes fatigue during the day
- Drinking regularly
- Gender – men are more prone to hypersomnia than women
Symptoms of hypersomnia
Judging by the name it’s easy to guess the primary symptom of hypersomnia – constant complaint of excessive daytime sleep or sleepiness. A person with hypersomnia may take naps during the day, but notice later that they’re still sleepy. If you have this sleep disorder, you may also experience symptoms such as:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty remembering things
- Slow speech or thinking
- Loss of appetite
How is hypersomnia diagnosed?
Most people don’t take excessive daytime sleepiness seriously and fail to see their doctor. If your daytime sleepiness doesn’t resolve even after taking a nap, chances are something more serious is going on and you shouldn’t ignore it. Make sure you mention to your doctor all symptoms or changes you’ve experienced recently even if you think they’re insignificant.
The doctor will assess your sleeping habits, medical history, evaluate symptoms, and carry out physical exam to analyze your alertness and rule out other conditions. Diagnosis of hypersomnia involves different tests such as:
- Polysomnogram – a patient stays in a sleep center overnight. The test monitors eye movements, brain activity, heart rate, breathing function, and oxygen levels
- Multiple sleep latency test – a patient takes a monitored nap during the day. This particular test has a purpose to measure the type of sleep a patient experiences. The test measures the speed at which a patient enters deep sleep over 2-hour intervals
- Epworth sleepiness scale – a patient rates his/her own sleepiness which helps the doctor identify the severity of the condition
The doctor may also recommend keeping a sleep journal or diary where a patient keeps track of sleep and wake cycle. The diary provides a deep insight into your sleep pattern.
Unlike other sleep conditions that you can use over the counter pills, treatment of hypersomnia depends on the cause of this disorder and required medically prescribed pills. The severity of hypersomnia also plays a role in treatment options. By taking into account your condition, the doctor will recommend adequate treatment approach.
In many cases medications that treat narcolepsy can help with hypersomnia too. These medications include modafinil, methylphenidate, and amphetamine all of which act as stimulants that keep you awake.
Lifestyle modifications can aid hypersomnia management. For instance, you may benefit from establishing a regular sleep cycle (having the same bedtime and wake time every day/night).
Avoiding drinking alcohol or engaging in other habits that keep you awake at night can also be helpful.
Hypersomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness has a negative impact on your life. You feel incredibly sleepy, take a nap, and wake up without feeling any better. Causes of this disorder are numerous, but fortunately, it’s possible to manage it successfully.