Hypersomnia: Causes and Treatment
Characterized as either excessive amounts of time spent tired or asleep during the day, hypersomnia affects around 0.5% of Americans each and every year. Although this doesn’t sound like a huge amount, it accounts for 1.6 million people and this is only the number that seek treatment (the amount who don’t seek medical treatment is thought to be significant). In fact, the National Sleep Foundation believes 40% of us to experience the symptoms of hypersomnia to some degree.
In terms of the health condition itself, the sufferers have trouble staying awake through the day whether it’s at work, at home, or even while driving. While the problem is purely related to sleep, it has all sorts of side-effects such as a lack of energy and trouble concentrating on even simple tasks.
Causes of Hypersomnia
When looking for causes, it’s hard to look past two other sleep conditions; narcolepsy and sleep apnea. While the former is related to daytime sleepiness once again, the latter deals with interruptions within the normal breathing patterns as you sleep. Both of these issues lead to hypersomnia and make it hard to stay awake during daylight.
After this, we could also point to the following:
- Being Overweight
- Alcohol or Drug Abuse
- Lack of Sleep (Night)
- Prescription Drugs (Antihistamines or Tranquilizers)
- Neurological Diseases (Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis)
With so many different causes, it’s important to see a medical professional who can assess the issue and ask the right questions. While the internet and fantastic guides like this can give you an overview, we can’t provide you with personalized advice. In truth, your hypersomnia could be a combination of these causes.
When you first spot the pattern of drowsiness throughout the day, this is where your doctor should come in. Initially, they’ll discuss your personal life, including your sleeping habits, to get a better idea of why this might be happening. In addition to your sleep, they might also ask whether you’ve been through a stressful situation recently or whether you’re currently taking any drugs (prescription or otherwise).
If they can pinpoint the issue immediately, they’ll start working towards a solution as soon as possible. If not, they may take blood tests, a CT scan, and even a polysomnography; this is a sleep test where your brain waves are measured alongside your heart rate, breathing, and oxygen levels within the blood. If necessary, an EEG (electroencephalogram) could examine your electrical brain activity.
Depending on the cause, the doctor will take appropriate steps as a solution and this could involve stimulants, Provigil, Xyrem, or antidepressants. As mentioned, the applicable treatment will entirely depend on the issue. Sleep apnea, for example, may require a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). With this treatment, you’ll wear a small mask over your face and this goes directly into a machine. Through the night, you’ll be provided with a flow of air to the nostrils which counteracts the condition. As the air flows into the nostrils, it keeps the airways open and you shouldn’t wake up in the night.
If you’ve been offered medication in the past and this didn’t work, don’t worry because they can switch your dosage or try a different solution. Sometimes, people need a heavier dose or a slightly different drug if the first didn’t have the intended reaction within the body. Often, people try medication once, feel disappointed with the results, and then forget the doctor altogether but this doesn’t have to be the case.
As we’ve seen, hypersomnia can also be caused by weight issues and a lack of sleep at night; sometimes, we get into the habit of staying up until 2am before the alarm then goes off for work at 6am. Although we all need different levels of sleep to operate, a sleep pattern of this nature won’t do any good at all. If your issue is one of these two causes, your doctor will recommend an adjustment to your lifestyle. Once again, it all depends on the cause but your solution might be a reduction in caffeine, more sleep at night, a diet to lose weight, less alcohol, etc.
If you’re currently suffering from hypersomnia, be sure to get medical attention because you don’t want to self-diagnose and then choose the wrong treatment. Instead, get assessed and have yourself back up to full health as soon as possible!