Hypersomnia – Is It Just Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?

There are multiple reasons that you may be feeling tired during the day, but could it be due to hypersomnia? A somewhat unknown sleep disorder, hypersomnia can act like other sleep problems such as narcolepsy and is commonly misdiagnosed as such. Hypersomnia, though, is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness during the day and causes a person to sleep most of the time. Typically people with hypersomnia sleep for more than ten hours at a time and are very difficult to wake up. Even with plenty of sleep at night or treatment for other related sleep disorders, this rare sleep issue affects many Americans and most may not even know what it is that they are suffering from.

It is easy to see why hypersomnia can be misdiagnosed as narcolepsy, but narcoleptic people don’t have any control over when they fall asleep or when the extreme sleepiness hits them while hypersomniacs experience more of an increasing feeling of sleepiness over a longer period of time. Some estimates have between only one and three percent of the population as having hypersomnia but this is hard to say since many people believe they have some other condition. It rarely affects children and women have a slightly higher risk then men of developing it. Could you be one of them? Below explains a little more in depth about what exactly hypersomnia is the treatment that is available. A life is way too short and way too precious to be sleeping the days away.

Diagnosis

The first steps to properly diagnosing hypersomnia are a few tests to rule out other medical conditions or sleeping disorders which also cause excessive daytime sleepiness. You should start with a visit to your primary physician who may also refer you to a sleep doctor at a sleep center. You will probably be asked to maintain a sleep diary or a sleep journal for a week or a few weeks before any specific tests are done, especially outlining when and how your daytime sleepiness hits you.

The tests for hypersomnia are relatively easy and recent advances in technology have made them quite effective in diagnosing the disorder. These tests are known as the polysomnogram and the multiple sleep latency test. The former measures a person’s brain waves and body movements during the phases of sleep which could actually monitor or detect other sleep disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness if not hypersomnia. The latter test measures the speed at which the subject enters a deep sleep over several two hour intervals. With hypersomnia (or other sleep disorders), the subject will fall asleep quite suddenly. For a subject who falls asleep in less than ten minutes, the test will point to narcolepsy or hypersomnia.

There is also a chance that nothing normal shows up on these tests. Before disregarding any diagnosis at all, your doctor will more than likely ask you to return for a 2nd test simply to validate the findings or to look for any changes. If nothing changes and the same thing happens again, you will probably be diagnosed with hypersomnia just as long as the symptoms noted above have been occurring for three consecutive months with no noted causes or other issues having been identified.

Treatment

As with any medical condition or sleep disorder, you can always find some relief in knowing that treatment and help is available. When you sleep the days away, you miss out on some of life’s most previous moments and it can also affect your social and emotional health, too. Hypersomnia, according to the National Sleep Association, is most commonly treated with stimulants like amphetamine and modafinil but some people have been prescribed antidepressants, especially in patients with idiopathic hypersomnia.

Of course, proper sleep hygiene which includes regular sleep schedules, sleeping in a relaxing environment, promoting quiet, quality sleep, a comfortable pillow and bed and avoiding caffeine near bedtime is important and these behavioral changes will support the treatment you’ve been prescribed. Most sleep doctors will recommend that you avoid naps during the day altogether or at the very least to balance them better and at proper times and locations. This part of the treatment – your individual lifestyle plan – will be different in each case. Each patient has different goals. Creating a realistic plan is an important part of treatment, however.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

If you have ever done any research on this topic, then you have probably also heard the words idiopathic hypersomnia. Scientists have divided hypersomnia into two categories; primary and secondary. Primary hypersomnia is diagnosed when there are no other underlying conditions causing the symptoms. Secondary hypersomnia is diagnosed when there is an underlying condition causing the excessive sleepiness. There are several medical conditions that can cause secondary hypersomnia such as metabolic, circulatory, renal, endocrine, psychological and neurological conditions. Other sleep disorders can also be attributed to a secondary hypersomnia diagnosis such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and uncontrolled circadian rhythm disorders. Idiopathic hypersomnia is one type of primary hypersomnia where patients suffer extreme daytime sleepiness that never ceases, even with the proper amount of sleep during the night.

Life with Hypersomnia

Because hypersomnia can be a debilitating neurological disorder, it can also be dangerous if left untreated. A person can lose their cognitive ability, sleep excessively but still feel the absolute need to sleep more above anything else in life, no matter where or when. What does this mean for their social, work or emotional well-being? Well, people with hypersomnia tend to have a hard time working as you can see why. They may also have a hard time driving a car or even living independently since there are dangers that just cannot be avoided. If you or someone you love is living with hypersomnia, remember that the love and support (and help) of family and friends is essential but so is the proper treatment plan. And since it is typically diagnosed in early adulthood, it can be new for the individual and their family to comprehend and adjust to. Once diagnosed, following a treatment plan can make life with hypersomnia much easier to handle and the quality of life for the person much better.

Six Tips to Stay Asleep During the Night

A recent National Sleep Foundation poll reports that American insomnia rates have increased from 51% to 64% in the last few years. Insomnia can wreak havoc on the health and lives of its sufferers, causing excessive daytime sleepiness and extreme lack of energy.

The sleep-deprived can become irritable and depressed and may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning and remembering. Insomnia can contribute to accidents with machinery, accidents from poor balance, and accidents on the road while driving.

Some people find it easier to fall asleep at the beginning of the night, but then wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. The causes of this may come from hormonal changes, insufficient exercise, eating foods that are disagreeable, drinking alcohol, or a general increase in stress. Whether it’s at 2:00, 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., they find themselves habitually awake and unable to get back to sleep. Here are some sleep tips that may help:

1. Use a black eye mask to cover your eyes and use earplugs to keep the noise out. A dark, cool room is most ideal to help the body produce melatonin, the hormone produced by the brain which helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles. A recent study found that a cooler body temperature signals the body to fall asleep.

2. Get some sunlight by taking a walk during the day. Being out in the sun will also set one’s wake-sleep cycle in a good way. Additionally, the exercise and body movement helps with a better, more restful sleep at night.

3. If headaches or tension are a problem, try using some magnesium. One German study found that 42 percent of the people taking magnesium reduced the duration and intensity of their migraine headaches.

4. For women that experience hot flashes and night sweats during the night, take some extra steps to keep yourself and your bedroom cool at night. Wear lighter bedclothes, use less blankets, and use a slightly damp washcloth on the forehead or neck.

5. Calcium is directly related to the cycles of sleep, therefore highly absorbable calcium and magnesium supplements are effective. The pioneering nutritionist Adelle Davis advises that during premenopause or menopause, the lack of estrogen and progesterone can cause severe calcium deficiency symptoms to occur such as irritability, leg cramps, insomnia, hot flashes and night sweats.

6. It can work well for some people to take a calcium and magnesium supplement directly before bed. These minerals are natural relaxants that can carry one through the night better and with less sleep interruptions. Softgels that use natural oils mixed with the minerals are more fully absorbed than tablets. These supplements should have a two to one calcium to magnesium ratio (twice as much calcium as magnesium).