What is Hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia is a sleeping disorder defined by extreme sleepiness. People with hypersomnia may feel the need to sleep for long periods of time during the day and may have difficulty staying awake for extended periods of time. Hypersomnia can be caused by a variety of factors, including sleep deprivation, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions.
Types of Hypersomnia
There are two types of hypersomnia disorder: primary and secondary hypersomnia. Primary hypersomnia is not caused by other medical conditions. Secondary hypersomnia is caused by another, preexisting condition.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common sign of hypersomnia is frequent fatigue. If you develop hypersomnia, you might find yourself taking regular naps and having a hard time waking up.
Other signs of hypersomnia:
- Sluggish thinking—You might feel foggy and take longer to understand the meaning of a conversation or to make decisions. You might also find it difficult to focus.
- Sluggish speech—Your speech might be slower and slightly slurred.
- Irritability—You may be prone to sudden outbursts or a quick temper.
- Restlessness—You might pace or fidget more often than usual.
- Reduced energy—You may move more slowly than usual and have less energy for physical activity.
- Reduced appetite—You might not feel hungry or might lose interest in food.
There are several causes of hypersomnia. You may also hear these causes referred to as hypersomnia reasons.
Common hypersomnia causes include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Brain issues
- Nervous system complications
- Drug misuse
- Alcohol misuse
- Sleep apnea
- Head trauma
Your gender, health, and lifestyle can make you more susceptible to hypersomnia.
Hypersomnia risk factors:
- Gender—Men are more likely to develop hypersomnia than women.
- Health—Sleep disorders and certain medications place you at greater risk of the condition.
- Lifestyle—Frequent drinking and smoking increase your risk.
There are a few different ways that hypersomnia is diagnosed. Your doctor will begin a hypersomnia diagnosis with a routine medical examination, followed by a selection of sleep-related tests.
A sleep diary is often an early step in diagnosing hypersomnia. You keep track of your sleep patterns, usually for a week or two, including how long you sleep each night and how many naps you take during the day. This information gives your doctor a better sense of your sleep patterns.
Epworth Sleepiness Scale
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a short, one-page survey that rates how sleepy you feel during the day. Your doctor may ask you to take this test as part of a hypersomnia diagnosis.
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale rates your level of daytime sleepiness on a scale of zero to three. The entire questionnaire includes a total of eight questions.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test
The Multiple Sleep Latency Test is a daytime sleep study that assesses how fast you fall asleep. During this test, doctors will monitor you while you take a nap.
A polysomnogram is a sleep study that measures your brain waves, heart rate, and breathing while you sleep. This test often involves sleeping overnight in a sleep lab or other medical facility.
Your doctor may also order imaging tests or lab tests to exclude other conditions that may cause your sleepiness. These tests can include a blood sample test, computed tomography (CT) scan, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your brain.
The treatment options for hypersomnia vary depending on the underlying cause. If the cause is a medical condition, such as narcolepsy, the treatment will focus on managing the underlying condition.
A major part of hypersomnia treatment is fine-tuning lifestyle habits. Lifestyle changes, such as establishing a sleep schedule and limiting sedatives, can help hypersomnia sufferers get the rest they need. Your doctor may also refer you to a nutritionist who will customize your diet for natural, balanced energy.
Medications can improve wakefulness during the day. Medications might include stimulants or antidepressants. Your doctor will prescribe medication based on your specific symptoms, health profile, and the prime reason for your hypersomnia.
There are a few things you can do to prevent most forms of hypersomnia, such as setting up relaxing sleeping conditions. You cannot prevent every type of the condition.
Hypersomnia prevention methods:
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid working late
- Limit alcohol
- Avoid sedatives
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