Hypersomnia and Sleep

Every individual has different sleep requirements. While some people can function with just seven hours of sleep, others need nine hours every night. However, if you’re getting ten or more hours of sleep a day and take naps, feel sleepy at the wheel, and drowsy at work, you may have a condition called hypersomnia. This serious and debilitating disorder has no known cause, and the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 40 percent of people suffer from it at least occasionally.

Causes of Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is characterized by either constant or recurring periods of excessive sleepiness.

Some of the causes of hypersomnia may include:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Head injuries or neurological diseases
  • Prescription medication, such as tranquilizers
  • Mood disorders, such as depression
  • Genetics

Hypersomnia Symptoms

If you feel excessively sleepy during the day, make an appointment to see your doctor or a sleep specialist. Your will be asked about your sleep habits, how much sleep you get at night, if you wake up at night and whether you fall asleep frequently during the day. Your doctor will record and assess a complete medical history, ask what medications you are taking and if you are experiencing emotional problems. You may be scheduled for a sleep study where a doctor will determine if you have hypersomnia.

The symptoms of hypersomnia include:

  • Symptoms of a head injury for at least six months that haven’t occurred within 18 months of the trauma.
  • Normal sleep study results.
  • A multiple sleep latency test of shorter than ten minutes. The MSLT is used to measure the time elapses from the beginning of a nap to the period where you experience the first signs of sleep. It measures how readily a person can fall asleep and identifies various sleep problems.
  • The absence of a physical or psychiatric illness that may account for the hypersomnia symptoms, including sleep disorders like narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea.

Treatment for Hypersomnia

Stimulant or antidepressant medications are effective in treating excessive daytime sleepiness. While these drugs are a good supplement to healthy sleep practices, they cannot substitute adequate nighttime sleep.

People with hypersomnia must allow enough time for sleep in their schedules compared to those who have healthy sleep, even while using stimulant medications. If you are currently taking other medications, your doctor will determine whether they should be adjusted or taken at another time of day to maximize daytime alertness.

To cope with hypersomnia:

  • Take frequent 20-30 minute naps.
  • Maintain a regular sleep/wake pattern.
  • Avoid alcohol or medications which cause drowsiness.
  • Let you friends, family, or coworkers know about your symptoms so they can know what to expect.

To learn more about hypersomnia and treatment options, please call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.