Excessive sleepiness, particularly excessive daytime sleepiness, is the hallmark sign of hypersomnia. Hypersomnia can also be characterized by prolonged sleep at night. Up to 40 percent of people experience symptoms of hypersomnia at one time or the other, reports WebMd. Some people inflicted with this sleep disorder have trouble functioning at work and school and interacting with family, friends, and in other social situations.
In addition to prolonged sleepiness at night and excessive daytime sleepiness, hypersomnia has other symptoms which may include the following:
- reduced energy
- appetite loss
- memory problems
- slowed cognitive function
Causes of Hypersomnia
While some people have a genetic predisposition to hypersomnia, for others the cause is unknown. In other cases, the excessive sleepiness is caused by another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. Alcohol abuse is yet another cause, while certain medications — and even drug withdrawal can be to blame. Hypersomnia can also stem from some medical conditions, including, but not limited to, tumors, central nervous system injury, trauma to the head, epilepsy, depression, hyperthyroidism, and multiple sclerosis. Obesity sometimes brings on the sleep disorder as well, as does sleep deprivation.
To diagnose hypersomnia, your doctor will prescribe multiple tests, including a CT and blood tests. In addition, you will need to undergo a sleep test, called a polysomnogram. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may request an EEG test, which measures your brain’s electrical activity.
In many cases, physicians treat the symptoms of hypersomnia, and vary depending on the cause. For instance, if alcohol or drug abuse is to blame, then discontinuation can provide relief.
On the other hand, if sleep apnea is causing your excessive sleepiness, your doctor may advise you to wear a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine while you sleep.
Sometimes medications, such as antidepressants or stimulants, may be prescribed. In a study out of Emory University, researchers found that a drug called flumazenil was able to restore alertness in subjects who displayed excessive sleepiness despite having enough sleep.
For some people, the excessive sleepiness dissipates once the underlying disorder is corrected. While hypersomnia on its own isn’t fatal, it’s effects, such as driving while drowsy, can lead to serious or life-threatening consequences.
For additional information on hypersomnia, visit the Hypersomnia Foundation.
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