When sleepiness affects everyday life
Hypersomnia means excessive sleep or sleepiness that interferes with everyday life.
It can have many possible causes, including conditions such as narcolepsy, sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome; severe sleep deprivation; depression; certain medications (such as tranquillisers); or drug and alcohol misuse.
However, some people with hypersomnia will not have an underlying medical condition and there will be no obvious explanation for it – they have it throughout the day, despite sleeping for a very long time at night. This is known as “idiopathic” or primary hypersomnia.
People with idiopathic hypersomnia struggle to stay awake during the day and are usually compelled to take frequent long naps. These may be prolonged or at inappropriate times – such as during a conversation or meal, or even while driving – and generally don’t provide any relief from the sleepiness.
Most people with idiopathic hypersomnia also sleep for more than 10 hours a night and struggle to wake in the morning, because they feel very drowsy and confused upon waking (“sleep drunken-ness”), although some people sleep for a regular amount of time (about eight hours) and are able to wake relatively normally.
The excessive sleepiness may have a negative impact on the person’s work, relationships and social life.