We have all experienced times in our lives when we felt extremely tired for one reason or another. But, there is a big difference between being very tired and having a disorder which is known as hypersomnia.
Hypersomnia is a type of sleeping disorder whereby a person literally has trouble staying awake at virtually any time of the day. This is far from excessive sleepiness which can be the result of lack of sleep – and is considered to be an actual disorder.
What Is Hypersomnia?
Technically speaking, hypersomnia is the state of excessive sleepiness that can result in a person falling asleep literally at the drop of a hat. They may fall asleep while they are eating or driving, or even mid-sentence. As a result of this problem, they will often suffer from a lack of energy, weight gain and clarity of thought.
One estimate shows that 40% of people will have hypersomnia at one time or another, making it one of the most common sleep disorders to affect adults.
What Causes This Disorder?
There are actually numerous causes of hypersomnia, the strangest of which is that of a genetic disorder in some instances. If you have a relative, in particular a parent, who has hypersomnia, then you are much more likely to get it as well.
Other causes of hypersomnia include head injury, traumatic brain injury, some type of neurological disease, or a disease such as sclerosis. These can all affect the way in which the brain reacts to sleep. Continual drug or alcohol abuse can also contribute to the cause of excessive sleepiness.
Finally, obesity is a very common cause of hypersomnia because many people who are obese tend not to sleep properly during the night. Therefore, they are in a constant state of sleep deprivation, requiring them to grab sleep whenever they can. Those with narcolepsy and sleep apnea tend to have a higher instance of hypersomnia.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypersomnia?
The most obvious symptom of hypersomnia is feeling constantly drowsy or sleepy during the day. Even if you technically do not fall asleep during the day, the feeling that you want to or need to may be a sign that you have hypersomnia. If you have unreliable or unsteady sleeping habits, or you are taking certain medications that are disrupting your sleep at night, then you may be suffering from hypersomnia.
Other symptoms of hypersomnia include the ability to sleep at night or to fall asleep quickly, emotional problems that are keeping you up at night, or severe changes in your normal sleeping habits. If you have suddenly switched over to the night shift, then hypersomnia is very common and easily treatable.
Is There A Treatment?
Before you find a treatment for hypersomnia, your doctor may want to do some tests which will include blood tests, a CAT scan, or some type of sleep test. These often require you to sleep overnight in a monitored room where all of your vital signs are monitored in your video.
This will help to determine just what your actual sleeping habits are during the night that may be contributing to your hypersomnia.
As far as treatments go, your doctor may suggest that you get yourself a steadier sleeping schedule, which of course is very difficult for many people to do. If you have a new baby in the house, you work at night, or you are under a great deal of stress, it is difficult to go to bed at the same time every night. But, in order to get rid of hypersomnia, that is something you will need to do.
There are actually some medications that can help with hypersomnia, especially those that act as either stimulants or antidepressants. These can help keep you more alert during the day so that when it is time to go to sleep you will be able to do so. Your doctor may also consider prescribing a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) in order to get you a better night’s sleep.
What Else Do You Need To Know?
If you are having difficulties getting to sleep at night or you know that you are not sleeping a full six to eight hours every evening, then you may want to talk to your doctor. Hypersomnia is a problem that can result in significant health problems down the line, not the least of which are weight gain, depression, and the great potential for accidents.
No one can afford to fall asleep during the course of the day, and it goes without saying that a good night’s sleep is something that everyone can use. No matter what your schedule or how much stress that you have in your life, getting a treatment for hypersomnia is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Last Updated 5 Aug 2013
1. WedMD (Accessed 5 Aug 2013)
2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Accessed 5 Aug 2013)
3. Better Health Channel (Accessed 5 Aug 2013)
4. Mayo Clinic (Accessed 5 Aug 2013)