It is easy to give a bad name to a person who behaves slightly off-track. For example, if you meet someone who shows signs of excessive sleepiness during the day, you quickly become judgmental and call him or her lazy, a job shirker or some others may think that the person leads a fast lifestyle with too many late nights, etc. In any case, this important warning signal usually gets ignored.
What most of us do not know is why someone should feel sleepy throughout the day but one thing we need to remember is that it is a sign that could announce the onset of several types of sleep disorders.
Because of this commonality, it is not uncommon to find excessive sleepiness during the day being misdiagnosed. But on closer scrutiny, one can actually draw very thin line of differences between the sleep disorders, despite the common symptom appearing in all of them. Take a look at these facts:
– Excessive daytime sleepiness is a symptom of sleep apnea as well as hypersomnia. But the age of onset of sleep apnea is around 50, whereas hypersomnia sets in during early teens or early adulthood.
– Narcolepsy symptoms include recurrent sleep attacks; whereas patients of hypersomnia go off to sleep gradually.
– Narcolepsy facts also tell us that the narcoleptic naps usually leave the patient refreshed, but naps due to hypersomnia are hardly rejuvenating.
This may come as a surprise to many, but excessive daytime sleepiness could be a serious medical condition called hypersomnolence, a sleep disorder that has the potential of completely ruining the victims’ life, both personally and professionally.
What is hypersomnolence?
The medical name for excessive sleepiness is hypersomnolence and the illness is called hypersomnia. It is termed as a ‘rare disease’ by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and currently affects less than 200,000 people in the US. The first symptoms of this totally disabling disorder starts to show up between 15 and 30 years age and remains, by far an untreatable condition.
Some typical symptoms of hypersomnia include:
– Patient falls off to sleep at the most inappropriate times and places
– The frequent daytime naps are not refreshing
– Patient sleeps for inordinately long hours, at times more than 10 hours.
– Slurred speech, slower reflexes, reduced thinking speed, poor memory, hallucinations, reduced appetite
How does the doctor treat the untreatable condition?
Treatments involve tapping multiple avenues to alleviate the signs. This includes counseling of family and friends, self-help, drug therapy and lifestyle changes.
Self help methods include doing physical exercise, weight loss, relaxation exercises, etc. Lifestyle changes include stricter bed time routine, avoiding late nights and more.
Of all these therapeutic approaches, counseling is perhaps one of the most important components of treating the condition. Family and friends need to be counseled professionally in order to understand the several aspects of the illness so that the patient can cope with his or her experiences better.
Drugs used for treating excessive sleepiness during the day:
– Modafinil, sodium oxybate, amphetamine, methamphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, and selegiline
– Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), clonidine, levodopa, bromocriptine, amantadine, and methysergide.