What Causes Hypersomnolence & How Is It Treated?

What is Hypersomnolence?

Hypersomnolence is a pathological condition characterized by excessive sleepiness even after getting a restful sleep of a minimum of seven hours at night. It is also known by the name of hypersomnia or excessive daytime somnolence. Hypersomnolence affects around 4-6% of general population in the United States. In some cases, the severity reaches such a stage where carrying out daily routine at home or work becomes a challenge. In some cases, hypersomnolence becomes dangerous to the affected individual or others especially while driving or operating heavy machinery. Hypersomnolence is known to the medical fraternity since age unknown but the significance of this condition has only come to light over the past three decades or so [1].

This is because of significant loss of productivity and the number of accidents which have increased due to the individual falling asleep. It is usually seen in people who have some other forms of sleep disorders to the tune of around 30%. Hypersomnolence is mostly seen in males although females also tend to have it at times. The reason behind this is the prevalence of sleep apnea is more in males than females and this is a major contributing factor in the development of Hypersomnolence [1].

What is Hypersomnolence?

It is seen more in the developed nations where the stress of work is immense in addition to the regular household stressors. The onset of symptoms of Hypersomnolence can normally be seen between the ages of 17 and 24 with the average age being around 22 years. If this condition is left untreated it can significantly dent the quality of life of the affected individual. This article gives a brief overview of some of the causes and the treatment options available for Hypersomnolence [1].

What Causes Hypersomnolence?

As of now, research is still ongoing to identify the changes in the brain that occur which cause development of Hypersomnolence. Some scientists believe that there is a significant increase in certain grain chemicals which can have a sedative effect on the individual and cause sleepiness. However, a specific chemical that induces sleep is yet to be identified by scientists but they suggest that the chemical interacts with GABA which is the promoter of sleep in the brain. This is precisely how sedatives used during surgery work in that they interact with GABA present in the brain and induce sleep [2].

Who Is At Risk For Hypersomnolence?

There are also certain risk factors that play a vital role in an individual having Hypersomnolence. These factors include excessive stress. This may be work related or financial stress. Going through a tough relationship can also take a toll on an individual causing excess stress. This immense amount of stress and pressure causes the individual to get into alcohol consumption which only worsens the situation as alcohol consumption is yet another risk factor for Hypersomnolence [2].

Anyone with a previous history of a viral infection or a history of head trauma is also at risk for having Hypersomnolence. Some studies suggest that there is a genetic link to the development of Hypersomnolence where people with a family history of this disorder tend to have Hypersomnolence more than normal population. People with a history of psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disease also are at increased risk for developing Hypersomnolence [2].

In some cases, people with no known reason tend to develop Hypersomnolence. This is termed as idiopathic Hypersomnolence. This occurs in about 0.01% of the population and is extremely rare [2].

How is Hypersomnolence Treated?

Coming to the ways to treat Hypersomnolence, sleep stimulants are the primary mode of treating this condition. Some of the medications given for this purpose include amphetamines and methylphenidates. Additionally, the physician may also prescribe antidepressants, MAOIs, and levodopa to promote sleep in people with Hypersomnolence [2].

Making changes to sleep hygiene forms a vital part of the treatment of Hypersomnolence. This is done by avoiding stimulants like coffee or cigarettes just before bedtime. Another pertinent change that needs to be made is keeping alcohol consumption to only in moderation. This is because although alcohol makes an individual drowsy but excess of it prevents a restful sleep causing Hypersomnolence [2].

It is also important to avoid foods that are difficult to digest especially at night like spicy and hot food or carbonated drinks just before bedtime. It is also quite helpful to keep the interiors dark at night so that the eye does not get strained and the individual can get a restful sleep. It is also a good practice to maintain a regular sleep schedule in that going to bed at the same time every night. This helps the brain get used to the sleeping schedule and the individual can sleep throughout the night [2].

In conclusion, Hypersomnolence has become quite a common condition in many households these days even though statistics reveal that only 4-6% of people have it. The exact cause of Hypersomnolence is not yet known as researchers are still trying to identify the brain changes that occur which causes an individual to feel excessively sleepy during daytime [1, 2].

There are some risk factors like alcohol abuse, not practicing good sleep hygiene, and excessive stress which increases the chances of an individual developing Hypersomnolence. However, all these factors are very much avoidable and with proper medications and lifestyle changes Hypersomnolence can be effectively treated. In some cases, especially where stress plays a role in the individual feeling sleep during daytime, counseling sessions to cope with stress in a healthful manner is quite effective [1, 2].

It should be noted here that an individual with Hypersomnolence puts himself and others at risk for accidents as a result of falling asleep anytime. This is especially dangerous when there is a chance of an individual falling asleep while driving or operating heavy machinery. Thus it is recommended for people with Hypersomnolence to get checked with a psychiatrist and start treatment for the condition immediately to prevent anything untoward from happening [1, 2].