Typically, most people need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep to feel well rested and maintain a healthy sleep pattern. However, a sleeping disorder may disrupt that pattern causing you to get too little or far too much. One such disorder, Idiopathic Hypersomnia, is a serious and debilitating sleeping disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, even after getting as much as ten hours of sleep at night and several daytime naps.
Much more than feeling sleepy or groggy during the day, people with Hypersomnia never feel rested, no matter how much sleep they receive. Although there are several disorders that can cause excessive sleepiness, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists several ways in which this problem distinguishes itself:
• Sleep is not disrupted at night, yet a need remains to sleep longer than the average requirement
• Needing frequent naps
• Falling asleep at in appropriate times, such as at work, school or social activities
• Waking feeling disoriented
• Feeling anxious or irritable
• Lack of energy
• Slow speech
• Decreased appetite
• Memory loss
Hypersomnia is clinically divided into two main categories, which differ only in duration and frequency, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
• Primary Hypersomnia is experienced over a long period of time with few, if any, breaks from the symptoms.
• Recurring Hypersomnia is experienced for several days at a time with long periods with no symptoms at all.
Causes of Hypersomnia
Often called Idiopathic Hypersomnia, meaning excessive sleep for which there is no known cause, the causes remain elusive. There are several things that researchers believe may contribute:
• Having other sleep disorders
• Some medications
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Head injury
• Neurological disorders
How is Hypersomnia Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose hypersomnia, doctors will first rule out any other sleeping disorder and find out if there are any circumstances that may be preventing a normal sleep pattern. Though a relatively low percentage of the population experience it, the symptoms are distinctive enough that patients are usually diagnosed rather quickly. Some of the tests that are likely to be performed include:
• Blood tests
• Computed tomography (CT) scans to check for any brain abnormalities
• Electroencephalogram (EEG) which measures brain activity
• Polysomnography sleep study
How is Hypersomnia Treated?
Since the real cause is not known, there is no real cure. Treatment is largely based on dealing with the symptoms. Most often, physicians prescribe stimulants so that the sufferer can stay awake during the day and recommend taking frequent naps whenever possible. Antidepressants may also be helpful.
What is the Prognosis?
Sleeping too much does not have too many ill effects alone, however, unpredictable episodes of sleep can have other adverse implications. The inability to stay awake can cause serious problems in relationships, in work and academics. It can also become a safety hazard if the person is driving or operating other machinery.