What Is Hypersomnolence And How Is It Caused?


According to the American CDC, hypersomnolence is a sleep disorder commonly diagnosed by instances of excessive and what some would consider chronic sleepiness during the daytime hours.

Millions of people are currently suffering from this condition on a daily basis. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 1% of the global population is fighting this disorder right now, in fact. These folks are feeling run down and tired all day long, so much so that even naps during the day don’t help.

On top of that, individuals usually do not get high-quality sleep at night, either. This low quality sleep occurs regardless of how many hours of sleep individuals get. In fact, many people diagnosed with hypersomnolence report that they get at least seven hours of sleep every night and are still chronically tired throughout the day.

What Is Hypersomnolence? 

Everyone feels tired during the day every now and again, but those struggling with this sleep disorder do not just feel tired at in frequent intervals during the daytime but feel exhausted on a chronic and consistent basis day in and day out.

daytime somnolence

The CDC reports that these feelings exist even in an individual suffering from this sleep disorder that get as much as nine hours of sleep each day. Because of the way that their bodies are wired, and because of the way that this disorder impacts their biochemistry, these individuals continue to wake up feeling exhausted – as though they didn’t sleep at all to begin with.

Interestingly enough, there are different levels of this sleep disorder as well.

Acute instances of this medical condition can last for less than 30 days at a time before they disappear for long durations, recurring at any point in time but usually again only lasting for 30 days before disappearing once more.

Subacute issues last for between 30 days and 90 days before disappearing and persistent issues with this sleep disorder can last for far longer than three months. Some people suffer from this sleep disorder every day of their lives and have suffered from it for as long as they can remember.

How Does It Affect People?

There are a variety of different ways that this sleep disorder impacts individuals, with some examples of daytime somnolence doing little more than causing people to yawn more frequently throughout the day.

Most people experience more pronounced issues stemming from this disorder, however.

Some report falling asleep (voluntarily) several times throughout the day, taking naps during the day but waking up feeling just as tired if not more so than before, and others claim that they aren’t able to on their own after falling asleep but instead need to be awoken by an alarm or someone else.

Extreme instances of this issue can cause insomnia problems, difficulty with mental illness and stress, chronic fatigue and compromised immune systems, and other mental and cognitive deficiencies. There are a number of cases where hypersomnia later led to more significant sleep disorders and neurological disorders that really compromise your ability to lead a happy, healthy, and productive lifestyle.

This is one reason why it’s so important to get out in front of this issue as early as possible.

what is hypersomnia

The Symptoms Of Hypersomnia

Now that we have broken down what is hypersomnia instead dive a little deeper into the overall hypersomnia symptoms you’ll need to be aware of to properly diagnose this condition.

Common symptoms can include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Randomly drifting off to sleep during the day
  • Fighting through “micro-naps” at regular intervals
  • Sleeping for longer than nine hours but waking exhausted
  • Having a difficult time arousing themselves after falling asleep without assistance
  • Waking up confused, agitated, and aggressive

Medical experts believe that this condition can be linked to a variety of different risk factors that include:

  • Excessive and chronic stress
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Previous viral infections
  • Previous head trauma (including concussions)
  • A family history of hypersomnolence
  • A history of substance abuse, depression, and anxiety as well as a number of other mental conditions and disorders have been linked directly to this sleep disorder, too.

Obviously you’ll want to speak with a trained medical professional to get assistance in not only diagnosing this disorder but also in figuring out what root causes (or mixture of root causes) are behind you having to contend with this challenging condition.

Scientists have also found a form of this condition called idiopathic hypersomnolence that affects anywhere between 0.01% and 0.02% of the global population that seems to exist for no real discernible reason whatsoever.

How To Treat Hypersomnia

In most cases medical experts are going to prescribe some form of stimulant to combat instances of this medical condition.

Over-the-counter stimulants as well as coffee can be used in more mild cases of this condition. If you’re dealing with something a little more chronic and a little more life altering the odds are pretty good that your doctor will recommend prescription medications.

hypersomnia symptoms

Amphetamines, methylphenidate, and modafinil are just some of the prescription drugs that are commonly prescribed to individuals that are suffering from constant and chronic hypersomnia. Other medications that are regularly prescribed to combat this sleep disorder can include clonidine, levodopa, bromocriptine, and other antidepressants as well as MAOIs.

It’s likely that your doctor is also going to recommend that you do everything you can to avoid stimulating substances at least three hours before you want to fall asleep. This means staying away from caffeine, energy drinks, nicotine, and the like well before bedtime.

Those suffering from this disorder should abstain from alcohol as much as possible. While alcohol can in fact make someone feel drowsy and tired drinking too much alcohol can lead to  lower quality sleep, and that’s only going to make an issue like hypersomnia even worse.

Fatty foods, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, spicy foods, and citrus fruits may trigger heartburn and indigestion which can be a risk factor that causes hypersomnia later down the line. Blue light (the light produced by modern screens and devices) should be avoided at least two hours before you go to bed as well.

Lifestyle habits going to sleep at the same time each and every night and waking up at the same time each and every day can help you to push back against hypersomnia, too. It may take a while to get into this routine and really groove this behavior for it to provide real measurable benefits but the effort is well worth it.

At the end of the day, the good news about hypersomnia is that medical experts recognize it to be one of the most treatable sleep disorders of the bunch.

Though it can feel like you are forced to battle hypersomnia all on your own (especially if you are the only one in your life that knows what does hypersomnia mean) the truth is you are anything but alone. There are numerous solutions out there that can help you push back and win the war against this sleep disorder even if you aren’t comfortable taking advantage of prescription drugs.

The important thing is to get yourself back on a high-quality sleep schedule that has you waking up each night feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to lead a happy and healthy lifestyle again.