What is Excessive Sleeping?

Many of you may be surprised to know that there is also a condition known as excessive sleeping; especially the insomniacs out there will be shocked to know that some people struggle with the problem of too much sleeping. People suffering from excessive sleeping find it difficult to stay awake during daytime or doing daily work and other activities and are always bogged down by drowsiness or the need to sleep. They have to struggle to wake up in the morning and getting out of bed. There are around 20% of such adults who have excessive sleepiness so severe that it affects their daily activities.

However, there is always some sort of medical problem which causes excessive sleeping; to find out what the causes of excessive sleeping are, read on this article.

When Does Sleepiness Become A Problem? What are the Symptoms of Excessive Sleeping?

You are said to suffer from excessive sleeping when:

  • You are feeling sleepy during the daytime and find it difficult to perform daily activities. 
  • You have difficulty in waking up in the morning.
  • Taking a daytime nap does not relieve your excessive sleepiness.

Other than excessive sleeping, you may also suffer from:

  • Trouble with memory or thinking.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Feelings of anxiety or irritability.

What are the Causes of Excessive Sleeping?

What are the Causes of Excessive Sleeping?

Excessive Sleeping Caused By Not Getting Sufficient Sleep

Due to today’s hectic pace of life, many people do not get enough sleep; and this is one of the commonest causes of excessive sleepiness. Other causes of excessive sleeping include alcohol, drugs, obesity, lack of physical activity and sleeping during the day and working at night.

Excessive Sleeping Caused By Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive sleeping in adults and children. Sleep apnea is a condition where the upper airway collapses for around 10 seconds when the person is asleep and this goes on for about hundreds of times every night. 

A blockage in the airway causes obstructive sleep apnea. When the brain fails to transmit signals to the muscles which control the breathing then it causes central sleep apnea. As the airway reopens, patient gasps for air and snores in sleep apnea. A person suffering from sleep apnea becomes aware of this after their bed partner informs them about the problems which are going on. As sleep apnea causes interruption in breathing and the sleep of the patient is also disturbed, it causes sleepiness during daytime, when working or when in school etc. The ability to sleep anytime should not be mistaken for being a “good sleeper,” because falling asleep at work or in traffic is very hazardous. Sleep apnea should be treated immediately which will also reduce excessive sleeping.

Other problems which are caused by sleep apnea are: wide fluctuations in the heart rate and decreased oxygen levels. Sleep apnea is also associated with other medical conditions such as: Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, increased hemoglobin, depression and fatigue.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea: The common treatments for sleep apnea are:

CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure is the commonest treatment used for obstructive sleep apnea. In this treatment, a nasal device is attached to a machine with a blower unit. This will help in keeping the airway open. CPAP is the most common treatment used for obstructive sleep apnea.

Oral appliance therapy consists of devices which move the lower jaw, tongue or soft palate forward. This helps in opening the airway.

Stimulant medications such as modafinil and armodafinil are given to relieve excessive sleepiness and to increase alertness in people who are not responding to CPAP alone.

Weight loss helps a lot with sleep apnea especially if you are obese. Losing the excess weight helps in decreasing the risk for sleep apnea by decreasing the fat deposits in the neck. Additionally losing weight also decreases the associated risk of leep apnea, which is heart disease.

Surgery is considered if other treatment options do not work.

Excessive Sleeping Caused By Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS is a condition where the person has a strong urge to move his/her legs and has unpleasant sensations in the legs. Restless Legs Syndrome can also cause jerky leg movements for 30 seconds during the nighttime and it can also affect other parts of the body. The symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome occur or worsen when a person is sleeping or is at rest. As the symptoms of RLS are often worse at night, they greatly disturb a person’s sleep and this causes excessive sleepiness one should be awake. In some cases, Restless Legs Syndrome can be mistaken for insomnia.

Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome: 

Moving the Legs: The symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome are greatly relieved by moving the legs. 

Treating Any Deficiencies: Other than this, if there is deficiency of iron or vitamin B12, then taking the necessary supplements helps in relieving RLS and daytime sleeping.

Medication Changes: Sometimes, certain medications taken for cold, high blood pressure, allergies, depression and heart problems worsen Restless Legs Syndrome and cause excessive sleeping. So, you can talk to your doctor regarding changing the medication if possible.

Lifestyle Modification: It is also important to follow a healthy diet, regular exercise, do meditation, massage and hot bath for relaxing. Also, one should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.

Medications For Treating RLS: If the above steps do not benefit in relieving restless legs syndrome and excessive sleeping, then the doctor will prescribe medications for treating the symptoms of RLS and to induce deep sleep. These medications include:

  • Anti-Parkinsonian Medicines, such as such as levodopa/carbidopa, pramipexole, pergolide and ropinirole.
  • Anti-Seizure Medicines, such as gabapentin, carbamazepine and valproate.
  • Benzodiazepines which include diazepam, clonazepam, temazepam and lorazepam.
  • Opiates, such as methadone, codeine and oxycodone are prescribed for severe cases of Restless Legs Syndrome.

Excessive Sleeping Caused By Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where the patient suffers from debilitating daytime sleepiness along with other symptoms. Narcolepsy is associated with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The REM periods occur during the day in narcolepsy. Patients with narcolepsy not only suffer from persistent drowsiness, but also suffer from sleep attacks that are brief, uncontrollable moments of sleep which occur without any warning. Another daytime characteristic feature of narcolepsy is cataplexy where there is sudden loss of muscle control. This can range from a slight feeling of weakness to complete body collapse. This condition can last from seconds to a minute. Cataplexy is associated with muscle immobility which is a part of REM sleep and is commonly triggered by fatigue or emotions.

When a person is suffering from narcolepsy, he/she can have insomnia or hallucinations or vivid frightening dreams and sleep paralysis. These may occur when the patient is trying to sleep or is waking up. Patients with narcolepsy will not only suffer from excessive sleeping, but will also experience depression, poor attention/ concentration and poor memory. All this occurs as a result of extreme fatigue due to daytime sleepiness and lack of good-quality sleep at night.

Treatment for Narcolepsy: These medications are prescribed for treating narcolepsy:

Antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors or tricyclics help with hallucinations, cataplexy and sleep paralysis.

A central nervous system depressant known as sodium oxybate helps in managing cataplexy.

Stimulant medications such as modafinil, armodafinil, methylphenidate or dextroamphetamine are used to help people combat excessive sleeping, help them stay awake and be more focused and alert.

Taking a couple of naps during the day can help in improving daytime sleepiness from narcolepsy.

It is also important to follow a good diet and regular exercise program to combat narcolepsy symptoms including excessive sleeping.

Excessive Sleeping Caused By Depression

Depression is a condition where a person has persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, lethargy, back pain and stomach problems. Excessive sleeping is one of the symptoms of depression. Depression and sleep problems go hand in hand and often share the same risk factors and will respond to same type of treatment.

Depression is also linked to different types of sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. The risk of suffering from depression in patients with insomnia is about 10 times high than normal people.

Treatment for Depression: Given below are some of the effective treatments for depression:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves targeting thoughts which cause depressive feelings and replacing these negative thoughts with positive ones. Patient is also trained to change behaviors which worsen the depression.

Medications such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood-stabilizers, lithium or anticonvulsants are prescribed for depression associated with bipolar disorder.

Daily exercise, meditation, dietary changes which include restricting caffeine and alcohol is also very beneficial for treating depression and excessive sleeping.

Self-Care Tips For Improved Sleep Hygiene And To Combat Excessive Sleeping

These strategies help in developing good sleep habits and can be utilized to combat excessive sleeping:

  • During bedtime, one should perform relaxing habits, such as meditating, taking a hot bath, drinking warm milk etc.
  • It is important to follow a consistent sleep schedule and got to sleep on a fixed time daily.
  • Never watch TV before sleeping or use your bed for anything else other than sleeping and sex.
  • Avoid heavy meals at least 2 hours before going to sleep.
  • Avoid the use of any gadgets including cell phones at least 30 minutes before sleeping.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 18, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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