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Understanding Idiopathic Hypersomnia: How Excessive Sleepiness Can Affect Your Life

Understanding Idiopathic Hypersomnia: How Excessive Sleepiness Can Affect Your Life

In our fast-paced lives, sleep is a major requirement. However, with work piling up, mounting mental health problems, use of phones and laptops increasing - sleeping the required 8 hours a day is a luxury, to say the least. But ever wondered what it would be like to be able to sleep all day, all night, with minimal activity and sleep engulfing us? Sounds ideal? Not quite.

Idiopathic hypersomnia is a neurological condition that never goes away. A person with Idiopathic Hypersomnia may get their 8 hours of sleep or even more, but continues to feel sleepy or drowsy despite being fully rested. They fall asleep, get their required naps, and wake up feeling worse than before. They may be jokingly referred to as “Rip van Winkle” from the popular tale, but their condition is far more troubling than one can imagine.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia Symptoms:

This condition is more than just excessive sleepiness. There are other common symptoms, such as:

  • Unable to perform everyday activities and work as they have excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleeping for more than 9 hours and still not feeling refreshed.
  • Daytime naps do not leave the person feeling better
  • Difficulty waking up from sleep or having this involuntary need always to go back to sleep.
  • A persistent “brain fog” - which relates to the inability to concentrate, remember or stay attentive for too long.
  • Headaches that leave the person irritable and groggy
  • Falling asleep quicker than normal, i.e., within 8 minutes or less.
  • Other sleep-related symptoms such as sleep paralysis and hallucinations that affect the person’s mind.
  • Uncommon symptoms such as fainting, blood pressure dropping soon after getting up, sweating a lot, and difficulties in maintaining body temperature.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia Diagnosis:

When symptoms start to show up, the natural step is to visit a number of doctors such as a neurologist, a psychiatrist or a psychologist, and a sleep medicine specialist. Here is a typical checklist that doctors would look into for idiopathic hypersomnia diagnosis:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) for three months or more.
  • Study of medicines taken by the patient in the past few months.
  • Understanding the patient’s history, background, disorders, physical health and other medical tests.
  • Understanding the patient’s sleep rhythms through a comprehensive sleep study known as polysomnography (PSG) - which is an overnight sleep test.

Is Idiopathic Hypersomnia the same as narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is characterised by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis and hallucinations, loss of muscle control and fatigue. Idiopathic hypersomnia is often mistaken for narcolepsy. However, while narcolepsy includes cataplexy - a condition where an individual can immediately collapse after a strong reaction has been triggered such as laughter - idiopathic hypersomnia has no such symptoms. Moreover, idiopathic hypersomnia patients are more resistant to stimulant treatments compared to those with narcolepsy. 

Treating Idiopathic Hypersomnia:

Typically, hypersomnia treatment includes the use of stimulants such as methylphenidate or modafinil. For hypersomnia with depression, antidepressants such as fluoxetine, citalopram, paroxetine are prescribed. However, idiopathic hypersomnia treatment varies from all other sleep disorders.

  • The drugs used are typically wakefulness-promoting agents. However, taking preventive measures is also important and advisable
  • The patient must learn to avoid activities such as driving when symptomatic and imbibing alcohol or drugs that may leave the person drowsy or with lesser cognitive abilities
  • Managing optimal sleep hygiene with a regular sleep routine is important
  • The use of electronic gadgets post 9 PM is to be avoided

The cause behind idiopathic hypersomnia isn’t known; however, there are special therapies devised to ease its symptoms. More often than not, a person with excessive sleepiness may get misdiagnosed. Idiopathic hypersomnia has been identified as a rare sleep disorder, apparently affecting ten times lesser than the number of people affected by narcolepsy. When you face symptoms, know that all hope isn’t lost.

At the Buddhi Clinic we take an integrated approach to sleep disorders, from diagnosis to care. Not only do we use modern PSG technology and questionnaires like the Epsworth Sleepiness Scale in order to make a diagnosis, we approach the problem in a holistic and personalised manner, blending modern science with the wisdom of ancient traditions.

At Buddhi Clinic, expert specialists in the field aim at correcting any deficiency and providing solutions that give you a much-need peace of mind. Head out to Buddhi Clinic and book your appointment with our doctors today!

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