What is hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is a condition in which you feel excessive sleepiness during the day. It may occur even after long stretches of sleep. Another name for hypersomnia is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
Hypersomnia can be a primary condition or a secondary condition. Secondary hypersomnia is the result of another medical condition. People with hypersomnia have difficulty functioning during the day because they’re frequently tired, which can affect concentration and energy level.
Hypersomnia can be primary or secondary.
Primary hypersomnia occurs with no other medical conditions present. The only symptom is excessive fatigue.
Secondary hypersomnia is due to other medical conditions. These can include sleep apnea, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, and chronic fatigue syndrome. These conditions cause poor sleep at night, leading you to feel tired during the day.
Hypersomnia isn’t the same as narcolepsy, which is a neurologic condition that causes sudden unpreventable sleep attacks during the day. People with hypersomnia can stay awake on their own, but they feel fatigued.
Primary hypersomnia is thought to be caused by problems in the brain systems that control sleep and waking functions.
Secondary hypersomnia is the result of conditions that cause fatigue or insufficient sleep. For example, sleep apnea can cause hypersomnia because it can cause trouble breathing at night, forcing people to wake up multiple times throughout the night.
Some medications can also cause hypersomnia. Frequent drug and alcohol use may trigger sleepiness during the day. Other possible causes are low thyroid function and head injury.
People with conditions that make them tired during the day are most at risk for hypersomnia. These conditions include sleep apnea, kidney conditions, heart conditions, brain conditions, atypical depression, and low thyroid function.
The American Sleep Association states that the condition affects men more than women.
People who smoke or drink regularly are also at risk of developing hypersomnia. Medications that cause drowsiness can have side effects similar to hypersomnia.
The main symptom of hypersomnia is constant tiredness. People with hypersomnia may take naps throughout the day without ever relieving drowsiness. They also have difficulty waking from long periods of sleep.
Other symptoms of hypersomnia include:
- low energy
- loss of appetite
- slow thinking or speech
- difficulty remembering
To diagnose hypersomnia, a doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam can test for alertness.
Doctors use several tests to diagnose hypersomnia, including:
- sleep diary: You record sleep and awake times through the night to track sleeping patterns.
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale: You rate your sleepiness to determine the severity of the condition.
- multiple sleep latency test: You take a monitored nap during the day. The test measures the types of sleep you experience.
- polysomnogram: You stay at a sleep center overnight. A machine monitors brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, oxygen levels, and breathing function.
Treatments for this condition can vary, depending on the cause of your hypersomnia.
Many drugs intended for narcolepsy can treat hypersomnia. These include amphetamine, methylphenidate, and modafinil. These drugs are stimulants that help you feel more awake.
Lifestyle changes are a critical part of the treatment process. A doctor may recommend getting on a regular sleeping schedule. Avoiding certain activities can also improve symptoms, especially around bedtime. Most people with hypersomnia shouldn’t drink alcohol or use drugs. A doctor may also recommend a high-nutrition diet to maintain energy levels naturally.
Some people with hypersomnia can improve their symptoms with the right lifestyle changes. Medications can also help this condition. However, some people may never get full relief. This isn’t a life-threatening condition but it may impact a person’s quality of life.
There’s no way to prevent some forms of hypersomnia. You can reduce the risk of hypersomnia by creating a peaceful sleeping environment and avoiding alcohol. Also avoid medications that cause drowsiness and avoid working late at night.