What Are the Symptoms of Hypersomnia?
Excessive sleepiness and sleeping are not the same as feeling tired all the time. If you have hypersomnia, you will:
- Regularly nap during the day and still not feel refreshed
- Fall asleep during the day, often while eating or talking
- Still sleep for long hours at night
- Have low energy
- Be irritable and/ or anxious
- Have a loss of appetite
- Have trouble thinking or talking
- Struggle to remember things
- Be restless
The Different Types of Hypersomnia
Hypersomnia can be primary or secondary.
Primary hypersomnia occurs when there is no other medical condition present. The only symptom is excessive fatigue.
Secondary hypersomnia is when there is a medical condition present. These can include sleep apnoea, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, or chronic fatigue.1
What Causes Excessive Sleeping?
Primary hypersomnia is thought to be caused by faults in the brain system that controls your sleep and waking functions2, like the circadian rhythm.
Secondary hypersomnia can be a result of pre-existing conditions that cause fatigue or insufficient sleep. For example, sleep apnoea can lead to hypersomnia due to having trouble breathing at night. This forces people to wake up multiple times throughout the night.3
Some of the symptoms that can be caused by medical conditions are:
- Falling into a deep sleep anywhere and without warning – caused by narcolepsy
- Loud snorting, breathing, and snoring at night – caused by sleep apnoea
- An unusual feeling in your legs, especially during the night – caused by Restless Legs Syndrome
- Low mood, little interest in things, irritability – caused by depression4
Some medications can also cause hypersomnia, so check the side effects of any medication you may be taking.
Other potential causes of hypersomnia include being overweight, drug or alcohol abuse, a head injury, or even genetics.5
How Is Hypersomnia Treated?
Treatments for hypersomnia vary depending on what’s causing it. While hypersomnia and narcolepsy are different conditions, there are many drugs used for narcolepsy that could help someone struggling with excessive sleeping. These drugs are stimulants that help you feel more awake, like amphetamine or modafinil.6
Your doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes, such as:
- Having a regular sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day)
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, or drugs
- Eating a high-nutrition diet to maintain energy levels naturally
When Should You See Your Doctor?
You should visit your doctor if you often fall asleep during the day, and if sleepiness is affecting your life. Your doctor will look into why you’re sleeping excessively, so they might ask you questions that test for depression, suggest you keep a sleep diary, or refer you to a sleep specialist.
Don’t try to self-treat yourself. While lifestyle changes usually help you sleep better, if there’s an underlying medical condition causing hypersomnia, you won’t do much to help yourself. Talking to your doctor is the first step towards sleeping well.