Idiopathic Hypersomnia

What is Idiopathic Hypersomnia?

Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and irregular sleep patterns. Patients with idiopathic hypersomnia often have difficulty waking up in the morning and may need to nap frequently during the day. The cause of idiopathic hypersomnia is unknown, but it is thought to be related to a dysfunction in the brain's wakefulness center. IH is also called sleep disorder idiopathic hypersomnia.


The definitive cause of the condition is not known. Possible idiopathic hypersomnia causes include genetic predisposition, brain injury, viral infections, and psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. A defect in the part of your brain responsible for feeling rested and awake might also cause the condition. Primary idiopathic hypersomnia is not caused by any other medical condition.

Signs & Symptoms

The main symptom of idiopathic hypersomnia is extreme fatigue during the day even after ample sleep at night. Someone with this condition often sleeps up to eleven hours per day.

Other idiopathic hypersomnia symptoms include:

  • Difficulty waking—You may sleep for more than eight hours but feel just as exhausted as when you went to bed.
  • Grogginess—You might find it difficult to concentrate or think clearly.
  • Headaches—It's common to experience headaches with this condition.
  • Trouble functioning—Performing daily tasks might become a challenging burden.
  • Chronic fatigue—You may not feel rested after taking naps.


Idiopathic Hypersomnia diagnosis usually consists of a combination of standard medical examination and sleep tests. Upon diagnosis, your doctor will identify if you have mild or severe idiopathic hypersomnia.

Idiopathic hypersomnia diagnosis includes:

  • Medical History—Your doctor will review your medical history to rule out other potential causes.
  • Multiple Sleep Latency Test—This test measures how long it takes a person to fall asleep during the day. A person with hypersomnia will usually fall asleep very quickly.
  • Polysomnogram—This overnight test is used to measure different aspects of sleep, such as eye movements, breathing, and heart rate. The test often takes place in a sleep lab.
  • Epworth Sleepiness Scale—The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a questionnaire that measures how tired you are during the day.
  • Sleep Diary—Your doctor may request that you keep a sleep diary in which you record your daily sleep and wake times.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing idiopathic hypersomnia. Your sleeping habits, medication, genetics, and medical history all might place you at higher risk.

Idiopathic hypersomnia risk factors:

  • Family History—Having a family member with idiopathic hypersomnia or another sleep disorder may increase your risk.
  • Sleeping Habits—Irregular sleep patterns make you more likely to experience idiopathic hypersomnia complications.
  • Medication—Certain sedatives and stimulants can increase your risk.
  • Medical History—If you have a history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, you may be at more risk of developing idiopathic hypersomnia.


Idiopathic hypersomnia prevention generally focuses on maintaining good sleep hygiene and avoiding potential triggers. 

Idiopathic hypersomnia prevention methods:

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Consistent sleep schedule
  • Relaxing sleep routine


Idiopathic hypersomnia treatment involves both non-medicine and medicine-based treatments. Some people with idiopathic hypersomnia may require a combination of these treatment options.

Non-Medicine Treatment

Non-medicine treatments for idiopathic hypersomnia include sleep hygiene education, stimulus control therapy, and mental health therapy. You may also want to avoid activities that could pose a threat to you or others, such as driving or operating heavy machinery.

Medicine-Based Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe stimulants or other medications to help you stay awake during the day. You may also benefit from idiopathic hypersomnia medication to relieve symptoms, such as pain medication.

If you or a loved one experiences any of the signs of idiopathic hypersomnia, please contact a sleep specialist at Baptist Health.

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