Hypersomnia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments
Hypersomnia is a word used to describe excessive sleepiness at times when you should actually be feeling well rested. If you consistently feel drowsy in spite of a good night's sleep, there are several possible causes and many potential treatments.
It makes sense to feel tired and feel the need for a nap if you didn't sleep well or at all the night before. When this happens night after night, over a period of time, you're simply exhausted. You may not know what to do about it, but you know why you are tired. And that's the difference between insomnia and hypersomnia. If you have hypersomnia, there may not be an obvious cause.
With hypersomnia, you may sleep as many as 10, 12, 14, or even more hours each night, and still feel drowsy and disoriented when you wake up and at times throughout the day. You may take naps during the day and still feel no relief. You may also feel many of the same symptoms experienced by people who suffer from a lack of sleep, namely, anxiety, low energy levels, impaired thinking and speech, and memory problems.
Hypersomnia can be a symptom of another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome, and you may not even be aware you have the underlying condition. Some medications can cause hypersomnia, as can drug and alcohol abuse. Hypersomnia is also associated with a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions, including central nervous system disorders, head injury, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, obesity, tumor and depression. If your doctor rules out all of these conditions, you may have what is known as idiopathic hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness with no apparent cause. You could have a genetic predisposition to hypersomnia and you may have been suffering from some form of this condition since you were a teenager.
Getting to the root of the problem is the first step toward appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Although lifestyle modifications such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding alcohol can help, your doctor may have to treat an underlying condition in order to resolve your sleep difficulties, or prescribe stimulant medications to help you stay away during the day. Hypersomnia and any conditions associated with such extreme tiredness will probably have to be monitored over time.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Hypersomina Web. 20 June 2011.
University of Maryland Medical Center: Idiopathic Hypersomnia. Web 20 June 2011.
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