In the past months, as part of our ‘Sleep 101‘ series, we’ve discussed the many reasons why a person may find it challenging to catch some shuteye and the various things one can do to get a restful sleep at night. However, despite sleeping like a baby, many still continue to feel excessively sleepy during the daytime and end up sleeping more than required. While this may seem harmless, it’s actually a medical condition termed ‘hypersomnia’.
“Hypersomnia or excessive sleepiness refers to the condition where a person can’t stay awake during the day despite receiving an adequate amount of nighttime sleep. This can cause challenges in completing day-to-day chores,” said Dr Vipul Gupta, Chief, Neurointerventional Surgery and Co-chief Stroke Unit, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram.
However, hypersomnia must be distinguished from just feeling sleepy during the day which can be caused due to poor sleep at night. “Hypersomnia is excessive sleepiness and it has to be distinguished from excessive daytime sleepiness. In hypersomnia, a person, despite having a good sleep of around 7-8 hours, still feels tired during the daytime and keeps sleeping. They end up exceeding the normal sleep requirement,” said Dr Ravindra Mehta, Senior Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore.
Causes and effects
If poor sleep at night isn’t the main trigger behind hypersomnia, then what exactly causes it? “The common causes include medication effects, genetic tendency, narcolepsy, and obstructive sleep apnea,” Dr Mehta said. In the elderly, hypersomnia may be caused by lung disease, neurological issues, and brain problems, among other reasons.
Dr Gupta explained that there is no particular cause for hypersomnia. “Several studies have suggested that hypersomnia could be triggered by another sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnea because it causes one to stay awake at night, resulting in fatigue and insufficient sleep,” he said.
Adding, Dr Navneet Sood, Senior consultant and clinical lead, Pulmonary, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital,said: “Hypersomnia can be caused by another sleep disease (such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea), autonomic nervous system dysfunction, or drug or alcohol addiction. In certain circumstances, it is caused by a medical condition, such as a tumour, head trauma, or central nervous system injury, too”
In addition to sleeping more than usual, those suffering from hypersomnia may experience anxiety, decreased energy and in some cases, headaches, restlessness and loss of appetite. “Hypersomnia can cause problems in how the brain works as one feels tired and drained out all the time. It becomes difficult to concentrate and think about certain things, making people with hypersomnia fall back in life,” Dr Gupta added.
It also impairs your capacity to function at work and in social situations, lowers your quality of life, and raises your risk of accidents, Dr Sood mentioned.
Who is more likely to suffer from hypersomnia?
As per experts, the following groups of people are more susceptible to this condition.
*It is typically diagnosed in teens or early adulthood (17 to 24 years).
*Females are more likely than males to suffer from hypersomnia.
Prevention and treatment
Experts note that while hypersomnia can’t always be prevented as it is a chronic illness, a variety of changes can be made in one’s schedule to deal with the situation better. “By creating a pleasant sleeping environment and avoiding alcohol, you can lower your chance of hypersomnia. Also, avoid taking drowsy medicines and working late at night,” Dr Sood said.
If you are suffering from hypersomnia, the treatment options vary depending on the cause. “Many narcolepsy medications can also be used to treat hypersomnia. Amphetamine, methylphenidate, and modafinil are a few examples. These are stimulants that make you feel more alert. Changes in lifestyle include a normal sleeping routine and no alcohol or drugs. A doctor may also recommend a high-nutrition diet to sustain energy levels naturally,” he concluded.
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