Hypersomnia – It’s a known fact that insomnia can hamper a person’s sleep habits and mental health. But imagine getting enough sleep, sometimes much more than the required sleep time, and finding yourself still drowsy and wanting to take frequent daytime naps? This rare sleep disorder is called idiopathic hypersomnia and is equally debilitating as insomnia. Unlike the latter, the disorder does not interfere with falling asleep. It does, however, put patients in a perpetual state of sleep drunkenness even after a restful night’s sleep.
Do you suspect yourself of having idiopathic hypersomnia? If so, this article will help you understand the disorder and learn ways how to treat it at home.
What Is Hypersomnia?
Hypersomnia, also called IH or Idiopathic Hypersomnia, is a neurological disorder which plagues suffering patients with a persistent urge to fall asleep even after getting enough nocturnal sleep the night before.
Patients who suffer recurrent hypersomnia do not feel rested or invigorated despite a full cycle of REM sleep.
An overnight polysomnogram shows hypersomnia patients experience sleep onset which enables them to enter REM sleep earlier than ordinary people.
Hypersomnia symptoms appear as excessive nighttime sleep and daytime sleepiness.
Not to be mistaken with sleep disorders that cause lethargy, people who suffer from idiopathic hypersomnia tend to fall asleep in the middle of any activity, making it more distressing and life-threatening.
These symptoms do not usually go away even after taking a nap.
Even after then, hypersomnia patients still have difficulties waking up and shaking away the sleepiness.
Other signs of this excessive sleepiness disorder include loss of energy, restlessness, anxiety, frequent mood changes, loss of appetite, hypnagogic hallucinations, hampered speech, and memory loss.
Some people also report losing the ability to function in social settings.
In addition to long sleep phases and excessive sleepiness, hypersomnia also causes abnormal behaviors in some patients.
Others may experience insatiable overeating that can cause severe weight gain after an episode.
Compulsive medical conditions such as sexual addiction or hypersexuality can also affect patients.
As a result, those who go through it may act out sexual behaviors such as compulsive masturbation, the constant pursuit of sexual intercourse, and urges of making sexual fantasies happen in public.
Because a faulty circadian rhythm does not cause the symptoms of hypersomnia, the International Classification of Sleep Disorders 3 classifies Idiopathic Hypersomnia as a hypersomnolence disorder.
Along with hypersomnia, other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, Kleine-Levin syndrome, and insufficient sleep disorder are also under Central Disorders of Hypersomnolence.
How Do You Get Hypersomnia?
Knowing the causes of the hypersomnia disorder can be tricky.
The reason why it is called “idiopathic” is that its symptoms can be caused by other underlying medical problems or sleep disorders.
The excessive daytime sleepiness can sometimes be as simple as a hormonal disorder or as critical as clinical depression.
Therefore, it is extremely crucial that all others are ruled out before diagnosing hypersomnia.
When you have primary hypersomnia, it means that no other medical conditions are existing with your excessive sleepiness during the daytime.
Primary hypersomnia is rare, affecting only less than one percent of the whole population, and can be diagnosed as narcolepsy, Klein-Levin syndrome or recurrent hypersomnia, and idiopathic hypersomnia.
It mainly shows symptoms of excessive fatigue which is said to be caused by the systems in the brain responsible for regulating sleep.
It must also be noted the primary hypersomnia is often attributed to genetics.
People who suffer from Prader-Willi syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, narcolepsy, or Norrie disease are more likely to develop hypersomnia.
Some neurological disorders including dysfunctional thalamus, brain tumors, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease also appear to have the same symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness as hypersomnia.
When you have secondary hypersomnia, on the other hand, it means that your daytime sleepiness can be blamed on underlying medical conditions and sleep disorders that are yet to be diagnosed through a multiple sleep latency test and Epworth sleepiness scale.
For instance, when you have obstructive sleep apnea, you have trouble breathing normally at night.
That, in turn, causes you to sleep insufficiently and experience daytime sleepiness the next day.
Other medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, epilepsy, encephalitis, narcolepsy, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure, and drug stimulants or alcohol abuse can also cause hypersomnia.
It can also manifest when the patient is recovering from central nervous system injuries, head trauma, or a tumor.
Another possible cause is thyroid problems. There are also stimulant medications that can trigger primary hypersomnia without warning.
How Do You Treat Hypersomnia?
Seek Professional Help
To effectively treat idiopathic hypersomnia, your sleep specialist should first identify if it is, in fact, hypersomnia you are dealing with.
Aside from blood works, there is a wide range of tests specifically designed to gauge a person’s sleep cycle and sleep hygiene.
In some cases, measuring electrical activity in your brain using an electroencephalogram or EEG is also necessary for the process.
The multiple sleep latency is a test that determines the speed at which a patient enters deep sleep.
Because patients suffering from post-traumatic hypersomnia and narcolepsy tend to fall asleep quicker than ordinary people, measuring sleep latency is the best option for determining sleep problems.
A latency test of fewer than 10 minutes can quickly detect and identify any sleep disorders.
Staying active is the best way to treat excessive daytime sleepiness since laziness or living a sedentary life can worsen symptoms of hypersomnia.
Doing quick and easy exercises like running, taking long walks, cycling or yoga can effectively help get rid of sleep paralysis and daytime excessive daytime sleepiness. That is because exercise releases the hormone serotonin which is responsible for improving the quality of sleep.
Talk About Your Condition
When you have a sleep disorder that is as frustrating and debilitating as idiopathic hypersomnia, it’s vital that people around you are aware of the consequences of excessive sleepiness.
Getting the support of your family can boost your confidence while you undergo sleep latency tests.
To add to that, if you inform your employers and co-workers about your condition, you will also receive the same amount of understanding.
You can even reach out to organizations that talk about sleep issues such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and more.
Is Hypersomnia Dangerous?
Loss of sleep alone can hamper a person’s concentration, memory, and reaction.
Taking too much sleep medicine is even linked to life-threatening situations.
With post-traumatic hypersomnia, uncontrollable, excessive sleepiness hinders people to function during daytime properly.
That, in turn, creates a devastating impact not only on the patient’s self-esteem but also to his/her relationships, career, and mental health.
In some cases, it causes fatal accidents.
Hypersomnia is not only debilitating; it can cost your life.
Mundane yet enjoyable activities such as swimming, playing sports, or having sex can become intimidating and troublesome.
Because people suffering from idiopathic hypersomnia can fall asleep anytime, they are advised putting off driving until a sleep specialist sees them.
If long sleep does not cure your excessive daytime sleepiness eds, it’s essential to seek professional help.