Previously published on Associated Content by this author
Hypersomnia is characterized by extreme sleepiness during the daytime, and may be extended to long periods during the night. An individual may sleep almost around the clock sometimes. Some of the reasons behind hypersomnia may include cumulative sleep loss due to studying, family demands (like having a new baby to care for), changes in work hours or a busy social life. Other possible causes for hypersomnia may include medications, sleep disorders, psychiatric and medical illnesses. In many cases hypersomnia may be alleviated by making some adjustments in one’s lifestyle habits.
Symptoms of hypersomnia
The symptoms of hypersomnia may include:
Difficulty in thinking or making decisions
Feeling curiously exhausted all the time
Feeling sleepy, despite napping and sleeping
Increased risks of accidents (particularly motor vehicle accidents)
Memory or deliberation difficulties
Need of daytime naps
Types of hypersomnia
There are 3 types of hypersomnia. They are recurrent hypersomnia, posttraumatic hypersomnia and idiopathic hypersomnia. Within these types are sub-types such as narcolepsy and Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS),
Sufferers of recurrent hypersomnia have continuing severe sleepiness. Even when they sleep 16 to 20 hours a day, individuals still have a huge need to sleep.
Oftentimes, sufferers of idiopathic hypersomnia are criticized for their increased need to sleep. Sometimes, idiopathic hypersomnia is referred to as non-REM narcolepsy; however, the difference between idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy is that the person may sleep as long as 2 hours at a time. The person does not abruptly fall asleep as a person does with narcolepsy; neither does the person lose muscle control as with narcolepsy.
Posttraumatic hypersomnia is the excessive sleepiness which develops due to physical injury, or from a disease of the central nervous system. For instance, neurosurgery, brain injury, spinal cord injury or infection can cause posttraumatic hypersomnia. This type of hypersomnia generally goes away in a few weeks or a few months.
Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS)
Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is an unusual sleep disorder characterized by frequent and extended episodes of hypersomnia. It may also be related with binge eating, behavioral disturbances and more infrequently, hyper sexuality. KLS usually manifests in young people and usually subsides when person reaches middle age.
The cause of KLS is unidentified, though nearly half of KLS patients experienced flu-like symptoms a few days prior to the onset of the first KLS episode. It is believed that Kleine-Levin syndrome may be triggered by a genetic mutation.
Studies have shown that Kleine-Levin Syndrome can be caused by a faulty immune system; thus it is termed as an autoimmune disease. Having an infection prior to the onset of KLS and the genetic connection may be point in the direction of an autoimmune disease.
Treatment for Hypersomnia
Hypersomnia may be self-treated or treated professionally. Talk with your physician regarding which methods will be best for you. In the majority of cases in professional treatment, your physician may prescribe medications to treat hypersomnia. Stimulants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and antidepressants are helpful in treating cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations, which may or may not be experienced with hypersomnia. It’s essential to remind hypersomnia patients, who are taking a medication called imipramine with stimulant medications, could be at risk of developing hypertension; they should be monitored very closely by their medical professional.
Hypersomnia is at times misdiagnosed as narcolepsy. Both of these conditions are similar in many ways. One major difference is that people with narcolepsy experience unexpected onset of sleepiness, and people having hypersomnia experience increasing degrees of sleepiness. Also, people having narcolepsy discover daytime sleep restorative, whereas people having hypersomnia don’t.