This individual frequently wakes up in the night; feels sleepy throughout the day; takes frequent daytime naps; and as if these were not enough, also has the dangerous habit of dozing off to sleep in the middle of a telephone conversation, a meal or even while driving. These signs may appear serious to the reader but strangely get ignored by many. This happens because not many know that these could be the first manifestations of hypersomnia symptoms.
This may sound unbelievable, but according to National Sleep Foundation, close to 40% of those affected with this disorder show several signs; unfortunately they get ignored as excessive daytime sleepiness is taken to be an after-effect of late nights, exhaustion at work, etc.
Are there any more warning signs? Before we discuss about these, let us understand what the condition is all about.
Hypersomnia – what should one know about it
Though relatively uncommon, this is a serious sleep disorder that sets in between 15 and 30 years of age and usually remains for life. It is characterized by over-sleepiness during the day. Responding poorly to treatment, only 25% usually recover completely.
There are two types of this condition: primary, also known as idiopathic and recurrent. Though the characteristic features of both the types are similar, the only difference is the frequency with which the symptoms show up.
What happens during the illness?
– Tendency to sleep for inordinately long hours at times going beyond 10 hours
– Feeling of over-sleepiness continuing for at least one month
– Frequent daytime naps that are non-refreshing
– With time, social, occupational and other important areas of functioning start to get affected.
– Anxiety, increased irritability, low vitality, restlessness, slow thinking, slow speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations, and memory difficulty.
– Incapable of any social interactions.
– Finding waking up difficult; wakes up feeling confused and disoriented.
Why do these things happen?
Interestingly, the condition can be caused by other sleep disorders like narcolepsy or even obstructive sleep apnea. Of course, other causes are dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, drug or alcohol abuse, etc. It could also be the result of a tumor, head trauma, or injury to the central nervous system. Certain medications, or withdrawal of medicines, may also be responsible.
Possibility of being misdiagnosed
There is a distinct possibility that this may happen since excessive daytime sleepiness is not only one of the main narcolepsy symptoms but also present as an effect of obstructive sleep apnea.
Such diagnostic confusion can be cleared by either taking a sleep apnea test that reliably confirms the type of disorder or studying other characteristic features of other sleep disorders. For example:
– Hypersomnia sets in between early teen and young adulthood; age of onset of sleep apnea is around 50 years of age.
– Sleep apnea treatment involves the use of devices, change of sleeping posture or even surgery if the condition is serious. Therapeutic options considered for managing other sleep disorders are very different, including providing only symptomatic relief in the absence of any known cause.
– Sudden sleep attacks are characteristic of narcolepsy, a disorder that entails refreshing daytime naps. For other illnesses, patients drop off to sleep gradually and the daytime sleeping bouts are not rejuvenating.
– Why does a particular illness set it? It could be a dysfunctional autonomous nervous system behind the hypersomnia symptoms or as diverse as a dysfunctional brain for another disorder.