Do you often feel incredibly exhausted during the day? Do you sometimes have trouble staying awake even when you’re sitting still? If so, you may suffer from hypersomnia, which affects your work, social, and love life. While many things can cause hypersomnia, it’s often related to other sleep disorders like narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea. The symptoms of this disorder can cause psychological distress due to the unbearable lack of energy that will eventually affect people’s mental health and overall well being
If you think you may have hypersomnia, see a sleep specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Many things can be done to help manage this condition and improve your quality of life.
What is hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. It affects 4% to 6% of the general population and is more prevalent in women. Those with this disorder experience extreme fatigue, often feeling drunk after waking up in the morning (even after getting a decent amount of sleep) and after daytime naps. Hypersonmiacs fall asleep multiple times per day. Unfortunately, they have difficulties performing everyday activities, carrying on successful work and social lives, and enduring a host of other uncomfortable symptoms.
In the late 1960s, a pioneer in sleep medicine named Dr. William Demet proposed “that patients with excessive daytime sleepiness, but without cataplexy, sleep paralysis, or sleep-onset rapid eye movement (REM) should not be considered narcoleptic.” Demet eventually went on to develop the first diagnostic test for narcolepsy and, most importantly, opened the world’s first sleep disorder clinics.
Going back to his proposal, Demet suggested something else was going on in many cases that did not categorize patients as narcoleptics.
Hypersomnia was on sleep specialists’ and researchers’ radars.
Primary and secondary forms of hypersomnia
Hypersomnia is not a simple sleep disorder. In fact, it is categorized into primary and secondary forms and can even be further classified into subgroups.
A primary form refers to the disorder occurring independently and not caused by any other condition. In contrast, a secondary hypersomnia diagnosis means the indicidual has an underlying condition causing the disorder.
The International Classification of Sleep Disorders lists eight different central disorders of hypersomnia.
- narcolepsy type 1 (with cataplexy)
- narcolepsy type 2
- idiopathic hypersomnia
- Kleine-Levin syndrome
- hypersomnia due to a medical condition
- hypersomnia due to a medication or substance
- hypersomnia associated with a psychiatric condition
- insufficient sleep syndrome
Examples of medical conditions that drive hypersomnia are head injury, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, neuromuscular disorders such as myotonic dystrophy, and mood disorders.
With so many diagnostic, multifaceted categories to think about, it is no wonder why a host of unbearable symptoms come with this disorder.
It is imperative to understand these symptoms so individuals become self-aware, can seek appropriate treatment, and ultimately have their lives back.
Symptoms of hypersomnia
According to experts at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the main symptoms and signs of hypersomnia include:
- Recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness
- Prolonged nighttime sleep
- Napping repeatedly during the day, often at inappropriate times
- Difficulty waking from a long sleep
- Feelings of disorientation
- Anxiety and increased irritation
- Decreased energy
- Slow thinking
- Slow speech
- Loss of appetite
- Memory difficulty
- Inability to function in family, social, occupational, or other settings
While many of these symptoms seem mild, think of them as excessive or intensified. Ultimately, hypersomniacs will feel the adverse effects of their disorder creep into their everyday lives.
It is essential to add that those who experience hypersomnia and have several of the above symptoms may unintentionally put their life and the lives of others at risk if they get behind a motor vehicle or operate machinery at a job site.
No one wants to live like this. A licensed sleep specialist must see individuals who have hypersomnia symptoms.
Diagnosing and treating hypersomnia
To get a diagnosis of hypersomnia, your doctor will collect blood and perform an overall physical to determine if there is an underlying condition causing your symptoms. A CT or MRI, a sleep study, and an EEG might be necessary. To say hypersomnia is occurring, the patient must have a history of symptoms for at least three months. An overnight sleep study gives doctors a broad overview of how patients sleep at night and how their minds and bodies react to sleep.
Unfortunately, there is no way to “cure” this disorder or even prevent it.
When treating hypersomnia, sleep specialists mainly target the symptoms, not the disorder itself, especially since it is many-sided and complex. Due to this, the primary treatments for hypersomnia are via medication and lifestyle changes.
Hypersomnia can make it difficult to function in everyday life, but you don’t have to suffer. Talk to a doctor or sleep specialist if you think you are suffering from hypersomnia or if your sleep patterns are impacting your quality of life. With treatment, you can get relief from the symptoms of hypersomnia and get back to enjoying your life.