What is hypersomnia?
A person with hypersomnia sleeps longer and for more hours than what is deemed normal for sleeping during the night or day. It is difficult for them to wake up. The need to take naps is overwhelming and provides little to no relief.
What are the main types of hypersomnia?
An individual with idiopathic hypersomnia may have excessive daytime sleepiness for a long period of time and can sleep 12-14 hours a day.
An individual with narcolepsy may have excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep episodes; many individuals with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is sudden loss of muscle tone.
An individual with Kleine-Levin syndrome may experience recurring, long episodes of sleep, which can last from a week to months, where the individual typically cannot perform their normal, daily life activities.
What are the steps to getting diagnosed?
Each person's journey to becoming diagnosed with a sleep disorder is different; however, generally, an individual would first need to bring their concerns to their physician and potentially be referred to a sleep specialist if needed. Bringing specific information, including detailed information on symptoms as well as concerns, is helpful.
The physician may need additional information regarding your sleep patterns and may require additional documentation, such as completion of a sleep questionnaire or scale, as well as sleep diaries or logs for a period of time.
If your physician feels that you may have hypersomnia, they may order a series of tests to both rule out other causes for your symptoms, as well as confirm whether or not you have a sleep disorder. This may include polysomnography (PSG) followed by a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) to measure your tendency to fall asleep (or stay awake) in a dark, quiet, comfortable place. This includes sleeping overnight in a sleep center (PSG) and then completing a series of naps the following morning (MSLT).
Depending upon the results of the PSG/MSLT as well as any other tests you may have needed, your physician may be able to make a diagnosis or may require additional testing. This would be determined on an individual basis.
How is hypersomnia typically treated?
The main treatment options for hypersomnia typically include changes to sleep behaviors and/or medication. Doctors have also suggested refraining from alcohol and non-prescribed drugs.
Changes to Sleep Behaviors: Changes to sleep behavior, or sleep hygiene, can improve hypersomnia symptoms. Sleep hygiene includes bedtime habits, such as what an individual does to get ready for bed and how the bedroom is set-up. This may include: avoiding caffeine later in the day, keeping the bedroom cool, dark and quiet, changing the actual bedtime, practicing restful activities prior to sleep, refraining from exercise before bed and removing electronics from the bedroom.
Medication: There are several medications indicated for Hypersomnia including certain amphetamines and methylphenidate. These drugs are stimulants to help an individual feel more awake during your wake cycle, however, it should be noted that some hypersomnia medications are controlled substances and can lead to a dependence and other side effects.
If you feel that you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary physician or a sleep specialist regarding your concerns.
*The information above does not constitute medical advice; you should talk with your physician regarding your medical care, including appropriate treatment options.
Member Only Resource: Hypersomnia Informational Sheet
This informational sheet provides additional information regarding hypersomnia and can be used as a resource for patients or for medical professionals to provide as supplemental information for their patients. AAHS members will have indefinite access to these informational sheets through the file archive on your member account.