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What is hypersomnia? – Causes, Symptoms, and More

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We’ve all experienced what it feels like to go a day or two without sleep. We are irritable, unable to fully concentrate, and have low motivation for doing life’s tasks. When this feeling of sleepiness persists, these symptoms amplify and it becomes more than just uncomfortable tiredness.

At this point you may wonder, “what if it’s more than just a touch of sleepiness?” What if it’s a constant, doggedness that makes it difficult to do even simple tasks? In your research for possible answers, you come across various sleep disorders, including hypersomnia. You may be wondering, “what is hypersomnia?” at this point, which means that you’ve come to the perfect place. The following article details the definition of hypersomnia, offers some suggestions for what causes excessive sleeping, as well as possible treatments available to help you get back on your feet and to stop sleepwalking through life.

What is hypersomnia?

Hypersomnia symptoms are mainly characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, making it extremely difficult to stay awake during the day. Those suffering from hypersomnia tend to sleep for more than 9 hours in a period of 24 hours. The sleepiness of those experiencing hypersomnia is not attributed to disrupted nighttime sleep or an issue with their circadian rhythm.

What are the types of hypersomnia?

There are two predominant types of hypersomnia: primary and secondary hypersomnia. Primary hypersomnia symptoms occur when no other medical conditions are present and the main symptom is excessive sleepiness. Secondary hypersomnia symptoms are generally due to another medical condition such as Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, kidney failure, or chronic fatigue syndrome. Conditions such as these may disrupt sleep during the night, leading to excessive tiredness during the day.

Some may confuse hypersomnia symptoms with narcolepsy symptoms, but the main difference between these two is that those suffering from narcolepsy have uncontrollable sleep attacks during the day, whereas those with hypersomnia can stay awake. Both, technically, are known as excessive sleep disorders.

What causes hypersomnia?

Primary hypersomnia stands alone as something that is not the cause of another medical issue, and may be a result of issues with the sleep and wake functions in the brain. It may also be a result of the use of certain medications or medication withdrawal. In some cases, individuals seem to have a genetic component for hypersomnia because it occurs in clusters within their family, but with others it may be something that doesn’t affect anyone else in their family.

Secondary hypersomnia may be caused by a number of different things because it is present alongside other conditions that cause serious drowsiness as a side effect. Conditions such as sleep apnea may trigger hypersomnia because it disrupts an individual’s sleep throughout the night. Frequent drug and alcohol use may also cause symptoms of secondary hypersomnia.

What are the symptoms of hypersomnia?

Hypersomnia symptoms range from sleeping longer than the normal 8-9 hours per day to mild hallucinations. Feeling constantly tired is one of the main symptoms of hypersomnia, but many of the main symptoms of insomnia are also found with hypersomnia. Symptoms of of hypersomnia may include: restlessness, loss of appetite, anxiety, low energy, hallucinations, slow thinking or speech, and poor memory. For some, the inability to function in social, familial, or occupational settings may also be due to hypersomnia symptoms.

How is hypersomnia diagnosed?

Consistent drowsiness throughout the day is the biggest indicator of hypersomnia and doctors may order a series of tests in order to rule out other issues. More often than not a doctor will ask you to keep a sleep diary to keep track of potential factors that may be getting in the way of a restful night.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is used to determine the sleepiness of someone experiencing a long period of difficulty sleeping. Doctors may use this scale in order to more fully understand your level of sleepiness. A multiple sleep latency test may also be used while you take a nap during the day in order to test the types of sleep you experience. A polysomnogram is another test that a doctor may recommend in order to get a better picture of what your sleep looks like at night.
The polysomnogram test is where you stay overnight at a sleep center and are hooked up to a machine that monitors brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, etc. This is one of the most effective ways to better understand the sleep difficulty an individual is going through.

How Is Hypersomnia Treated?

Depending on the cause of your hypersomnia, treatments are as varied as the individual suffering from the disorder. Since many difficulties with sleep are caused by environmental or lifestyle factors, an in-depth look into your sleep diary may point to some changes in habits that need to be made. Getting on a regular sleep schedule is huge as a hypersomnia treatment, along with avoiding behaviors before bedtime such as alcohol or drug use. A diet that is highly nutritious may also play a big role in helping the sufferer of hypersomnia maintain high levels of energy in a more natural way. When these lifestyle changes don’t work, medications for hypersomnia treatment may be prescribed.

Medications

Drugs used for narcolepsy such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, and modafinil, are stimulating and may be prescribed as a hypersomnia treatment. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to people suffer from sleeplessness.

If you are suffering from secondary hypersomnia, any medications you may take for another physical or mental problem may also help with your hypersomnia. Individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea, for example, may be given a CPAP machine. These CPAP machines (continuous positive airway pressure) are worn as a mask over the individual’s mouth and helps their airways remain open throughout the night.

It is possible that you may currently be taking medications that are interfering with you sleep. If you are having consistent difficulties sleeping it may be wise to talk to your doctor and be sure to bring any medications (over the counter or otherwise) that you are taking. Ensuring a good night of sleep may be as simple as switching out one medication for another because they may be interacting in a way that disrupts your nighttime rest.

Conclusion

Good sleep is something we tend to take for granted until we start having difficulties with it. Getting good rest consistently is one of the keys to living a healthy, well-balanced life, and if you’re not getting consistent rest, every area of your life is negatively affected in some capacity. If you suffer from an excessive sleep disorder such as hypersomnia, just know that you’re not alone. Hypersomnia affects 4% to 6% of the general population.

Resources, such as this guide outlining “what is hypersomnia?”, are available to help provide information and to urge individuals to talk to their doctors in order to find a solution that works best for you.

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Sleep Consultant with extensive experience who has assisted hundreds of parents with their children’s sleep issues. She also works with adults to educate, support, and motivate them to sleep better.
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Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

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Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians