Hypersomnia (or excessive sleepiness/daytime tiredness) is a condition in which the patient experiences difficulty staying awake during the day. Patients are susceptible to falling asleep any time of the day while doing daily activities or going through a regular routine. Sleep deprivation or a lifestyle that results in a disturbed sleep cycle can confuse the biological clock of the human brain. This can lead to a chemical imbalance and cause sleep-related disorders like insomnia, dyssomnia, breathing related sleep disorders.
Hypersomnia is categorized into two broad categories: primary and secondary hypersomnia. Primary hypersomnia is also associated with a number of other neurological factors like brains strokes and a dysfunction of the hypothalamus. Secondary hypersomnia, on the other hand, can lead to conditions like depression and epilepsy.
Most patients start complaining about excessive sleepiness and tiredness during the day. The complaints usually last for about a month before the patients start losing control of the situation. Patients may also complain instances of falling asleep unintentionally for a brief period of time at work. Most patients complain that such instances of falling asleep are not under their control and they just “slip” into sleep without really knowing about it. Hypersomnia mostly affects adolescents and young adults.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypersomnia
- Increased irritation
- Decreased energy
- Slow thinking
- Slow speech
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty waking up after a long sleep
- Feeling disoriented after a long sleep
- Trouble remembering important things
- Cognitive impairment
Causes and Risk Factors
Hypersomnia is a mental condition and there are many reasons as to why a person may acquire this condition. Narcolepsy and sleep apnea are considered to be the major causes. Obesity and substance abuse also lead to hypersomnia. In some cases, diabetes is said to have been a potential cause. The condition is also brought about by use of prescriptions drugs, mostly tranquilizers and narcotics. Also, patients of extreme hypersomnia are known to fall asleep in the middle of work or driving, which can cause serious accidents in the latter. This can potentially cause unforeseen accidents, mostly fatal.
Apart from these, there are definitive pathological and genetic reasons that cause hypersomnia. Genetic mutations can lead to a malfunction in sleep-related neurotransmitters, leading to a disturbed sleep cycle and eventually, hypersomnia. It may also be passed onto the offspring genetically. A head injury or neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis can also lead to it.
Hypersomnia can expose patients to a number of risks including:
- Disinterest in day to day activities
- Sleep apnea
- Other mental disorders
- General irritability
- Aggressive behavior
Patients can enroll in treatment centers for an inpatient disorder treatment program. Inpatient programs are fully residential programs that are helpful in bringing about lifestyle changes. Treatment centers also give the patient a chance to break away from his or her stressful routine and establish a disciplined sleep cycle away from the humdrum of a stressful life.
Hypersomnia can be treated by psychiatry as well as medication. Most doctors suggest a combination of medications and targeted psychotherapy. Antidepressants, stimulants and medicines like Provigil are particularly useful in increasing patients’ energy levels. This can keep them from falling asleep in the middle of important work.
Some patients need motivation to combat hypersomnia. They need to be told that this condition is treatable and that concerted efforts can help them regain their lost energy levels. Yoga, meditation and breathing exercises help patients establish a sound biological cycle. Good eating habits and setting a strict sleep schedule can reverse the side effects in a matter of a few weeks.