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Hypersomnolence Disorder

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

What is Hypersomnolence Disorder?

Hypersomnolence (also known as hypersomnia) means that you are extremely drowsy or sleepy during the day even though you sleep for what should be long enough to feel refreshed.

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Excessive sleepiness even though you slept at least 7 hours, and at least one of the following is happening:
    • you can't stop yourself from falling asleep multiple times during the day
    • you sleep more than 9 hours, but still don't feel refreshed
    • you have difficultly being completely awake after being suddenly awakened
  • the excessive sleepiness happens at least 3 times per week for at least 3 months
  • it causes a lot of stress or you have trouble in school, work, your relationships, or in other daily activities
  • it is not caused by another sleep disorder
  • it is not happening because of a substance (medication or drug of abuse)
  • if you have any other medical or mental health conditions, they do not cause the sleepiness

The condition can be:

  • Acute - lasts for less than 1 month
  • Subacute - lasts for 1-3 months
  • Persistent - lasts more than 3 months

You can also have different levels of trouble staying awake during the day where the problems are:

  • Mild -1 or 2 days a week
  • Moderate -3-4 days a week
  • Severe - 5-7 days per week

How common is Hypersomnolence Disorder?

Research has found that of people that go to a sleep center for help about 5-10% (5 or 10 people out of every 100 people that are seen) have this condition. It happens about equally in males and females.

It usually occurs for the first time when someone is between 17 and 24 years old, but people may not be diagnosed for as long as 10 or 15 years after the first symptoms have shown up. It is rare for children to have this condition.

What are the risk factors for Hypersomnolence Disorder?

Stress and alcohol use can both increase the risk of this disorder. Viral infections cause about 10% of the cases. It can also sometimes happen 6-18 months after someone has had a head trauma. It also appears to sometimes run in families.

What other disorders or conditions often occur with Hypersomnolence Disorder?

It has been shown to occur with depression, bipolar disorder, substance-related disorders (especially those who use stimulant medications), Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and other similar medical conditions.

How is Hypersomnolence Disorder treated?

A doctor will first check to see if another condition is causing the sleepiness that can be treated (especially a breathing-related sleep disorder).

The doctor will also look at any medications that you are currently taking which could be causing daytime drowsiness and might give you a different one instead.

Other common treatments include stimulant medications during the day to keep the person awake and alert. Behavioral therapy is also used to work on sleep habits. This could include setting regular times to go to sleep and to wake up and looking at the types of activities you do before bed that could be causing a problem (exercise, too much tv or screen time, eating or drinking things, etc.).