Ngozi Chiekwu , MSN, PMHNP-BC

Integrated Health and Wellness Services, LLC

302-427-8000

1508 Pennsylvania Avenue
 Wilmington, DE 19806

Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is a condition characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with hypersomnia have trouble staying awake during the day or sleep excessively during the night. Up to 40 percent of the population experiences symptoms of hypersomnia at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of Hypersomnia

The symptoms of hypersomnia are troubling and often dangerous. They interfere with work or school, relationships, and everyday life. These symptoms, which most often first appear in adolescence, include:

  • Falling asleep inappropriately at work, during meals, during conversations
  • Falling asleep while driving
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Hallucinations

Causes of Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia can be the result of another illness or disorder or may simply be the result of getting too little sleep during the night. Causes of hypersomnia include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Inherited tendency
  • Prescription drugs, such as tranquilizers or cough syrup
  • Withdrawal from certain medications
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Narcolepsy
  • Depression
  • Sleep apnea
  • Brain injury
  • Neurological disease
  • Being overweight

Diagnosis of Hypersomnia

Diagnosis of hypersomnia involves both a physical examination and a psychological evaluation. Patients will be questioned regarding their sleep habits, their emotional well-being, and any medications or drugs they may be taking. The following tests may be administered to assess the root cause of the problem:

  • Blood tests
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Polysomnography (sleep test)

Treatment of Hypersomnia

Treatments for hypersomnia depend on its causes. If the condition results from sleep apnea, patients may be prescribed a mask to keep air flowing into their nostrils during sleep. This device, known as a CPAP, will assist patients in getting a good night's sleep, thus lessening their daytime sleepiness. When the condition results from medications, physicians have to make prescription changes.

For hypersomnia caused by other conditions, there are several medications available to combat symptoms, including stimulants, antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Behavior modification techniques are also frequently employed. These may include training patients to go to bed earlier in order to get more nighttime sleep and not to schedule work or exercise too close to bedtime in order to wind down properly. Patients with hypersomnia are also advised to eliminate alcohol, drugs and caffeine from their diets. In the case of patients with substance abuse issues, other supportive treatments will be necessary.

Additional Resources