Hypersomnia (or Excessive Daytime Sleepiness)

If you find that you feel abnormally tired and sleepy during the day, you may have a condition called hypersomnia. Some people with hypersomnia fall asleep while driving or while working, but this condition should not be confused with narcolepsy, which is characterized more by frequent “attacks” of sudden sleep, though the two conditions are related and symptoms do overlap. Surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation have concluded that 4 out of every 10 people experience hypersomnia symptoms occasionally, although chronic hypersomnia is slightly less common.

Causes of Hypersomnia

Depending on the person, excessive sleepiness during the day can be a result of various circumstances. Sometimes, having trouble staying away during the day is a sign that a person has a deeper condition, such as narcolepsy (daytime sleepiness and frequent “attacks” of sleep) or sleep apnea (inconsistent and interrupted breathing patterns during sleep that keep a person from experiencing deep rapid eye movement, or REM, cycles). General sleep deprivation caused by insomnia or a person’s lifestyle choices is also another probable cause.

Furthermore, factors that cause a person to need too much sleep during the day include emotional problems, obesity, excessive drug and alcohol use (including prescription medication and tranquilizers), the presence and pain of external injuries and some neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune disease marked by a malformed central nervous system  that causes problems in many bodily functions). Hypersomnia also tends to run in families and may be a genetic condition.

Seeking Professional Help for Hypersomnia and Sleepiness

Simple blood and imaging tests may be used in certain doctors’ office and sleep study centers to diagnose a person’s hypersomnia and determine the best method of hypersomnia treatment—including but not limited to CT scan, polysomnography (or a sleep study) and electroencephalogram (EEG).

Depending on what underlying issues are detected during the doctors’ tests, a hypersomnia patient could be prescribed medicinal drugs or other form of treatment. A condition like sleep apnea will need to be treated directly, with a mask and machine to provide continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or alternative devices or surgery. Otherwise, hypersomnia is sometimes coped with simply by changing one’s living and sleeping habits (i.e. reducing intake of caffeine and alcohol or going to bed earlier). Contact a sleep doctor if you feel you might have an underlying medical condition that makes you feel very sleepy.