Hypersomnia is characterized by excess sleepiness or sleeping. Learn about its causes, as well as how it’s treated. It’s not unusual to feel drowsy and tired sometimes, especially when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Hypersomnia or hypersomnolence is the clinical term for this. The drowsiness can be persistent and severe in some cases, and naps don’t help
It’s not unusual to feel drowsy and tired sometimes, especially when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. Hypersomnia or hypersomnolence is the clinical term for this. The drowsiness can be persistent and severe in some cases, and naps don’t help relieve the issue. This can be a sign of another sleep disorder, an independent condition called idiopathic hypersomnia, or the result of medication side effects, among other causes.
Hypersomnia isn’t life-threatening, but it can certainly impact your quality of life and be associated with serious health conditions. It’s important to understand how this issue impacts your health, what causes it, and how it’s managed.
Hypersomnia is primarily defined by either excessive sleepiness or sleeping in excess of 10 hours at night. This leads to:
As a result of these symptoms, people with hypersomnia may struggle to stay awake at work or school. You may fall asleep during meals, conversations, or even while driving. This can significantly impact your professional and personal life, drastically impacting your quality of life.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of hypersomnia:
Many factors can cause periods of drowsiness, sleepiness, and excess sleeping that typifies hypersomnia. The most common causes include:
By far, not getting enough sleep—or having your sleep interrupted—is the leading cause of hypersomnia symptoms. Adults typically need seven to eight hours a night (six hours or less is considered insufficient). According to the National Health Interview Survey, just under 33% of American adults reported getting insufficient sleep in 2017.
Hypersomnia is also a characteristic of sleep disorders and neurologic conditions, including:
Drowsiness throughout the day or sleeping too much at night can also be caused by drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs. In particular, chronic use of such substances and withdrawal from them are associated with decreasing the quantity and quality of sleep.
Periods of hypersomnia can also be side effects of both prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Commonly associated classes of drugs include:
If you’re taking prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, make sure you understand potential side effects, interactions, and adverse effects. If something you’re taking is making you feel worse or the side effects are affecting your daily life, call your healthcare provider. If you experience alarming symptoms, get emergency help.
If you report problematic hypersomnia symptoms, the diagnostic process will focus on isolating their underlying cause. This may involve:
A range of approaches are used to manage hypersomnia, and the course of treatment often depends on the underlying cause of the symptoms. For many cases, certain prescribed medications can help, including:
If the hypersomnia is associated with medications you’re taking, your prescription may need to be changed. Talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes or stopping any medication. Don't make changes without doing so.
Especially when the hypersomnia is associated with other sleep disorders, additional therapies may be effective, especially alongside other treatments:
Making changes to your sleeping behavior and lifestyle to promote adequate and healthy sleep is critical in managing hypersomnia. This may involve:
While excessive drowsiness may not be fatal, it can significantly impact your work, home, and social life. It’s worth calling your healthcare provider if:
Additionally, consider treatment if you work overnight shifts, fall asleep while driving, or hypersomnia is significantly impacting your daily life.
Hypersomnia is the clinical term for excessive sleepiness throughout the day or sleeping excessively at night. It’s commonly caused by sleeping disruptions, sleep disorders, and alcohol and drug use, though it can also be the side effect of medications. People with hypersomnia find relief by following their healthcare providers’ recommendations, taking certain medications, and making meaningful lifestyle changes.
Hypersomnia can significantly impact your day-to-day life, making it difficult to drive, stay awake at work or school, and complete your daily tasks of living. While some people just need a little more sleep than others, excessive sleepiness isn't something you should have to endure. If this sounds like you, talk to your primary care provider. They can help determine what is causing your symptoms.
Excessive sleepiness (hypersomnia) is most commonly caused by interrupted or insufficient sleep. However, it can also arise due to other sleeping disorders, such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea, or arise independently.
Hypersomnia can be a side effect of certain medications and is associated with alcohol and illicit drug use. Anxiety and depression are among mental health conditions that may cause these symptoms, as can hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and others.
You can do a lot at home to make sure you’re getting good quality and sufficient sleep. Lifestyle changes that can help include going to bed and waking up at consistent times, relaxing before bedtime, and keeping your bed free of devices or screens. Additionally, getting enough exercise, keeping a good diet, and steering clear of alcohol and tobacco can help. Avoid caffeine or large meals late at night.
A wide range of prescribed drugs can cause excessive sleepiness, including antihistamines, antidepressants, and beta-blockers. If you think your hypersomnia is due to a medication, call your healthcare provider before making any changes to your dosage. It’s unsafe to stop some medications abruptly, and you may need others to transition to.