From ‘Club Duvet’ to ‘hitting the sack’ – whatever we call it, we all need sleep. But when does sleeping too much become unhealthy?
Hypersomnia is a sleeping disorder that causes people to suffer from excessive sleepiness, the effect of which has been described by some sufferers to be almost addictive in nature. The tiredness itself is different to the type associated with fatigue or exhaustion. The condition usually arises as a secondary sleep disorder to other conditions, such as sleep apnea.
What is it?
Hypersomnia shares several characteristics with narcolepsy, most notably a chronic state of sleepiness. People with hypersomnia do not display rapid eye movement (REM) while they sleep. Their sleep latency (the time it takes for a person to fall asleep), is quite short, sometimes taking only five minutes.
Hypersomnia is divided into two types: Idiopathic hypersomnia and Klein-Levin Syndrome, also known as recurrent hypersomnia. Idiopathic hypersomnia is presumed to originate in the brain and is associated with prolonged sleep, but not REM. Klein-Levin Syndrome usually affects adolescent males, causing them to experience bouts of excessive sleepiness along with an increase in food intake and an unusually powerful sexual drive.
Klein-Levin syndrome affects behavioural patterns too, causing sufferers to become irritable, lethargic and/or apathetic, but the condition is relatively rare. The onset age is usually 15 and the condition may last for up to 8 years. The symptoms are cyclical, meaning that a patient could experience a series of episodes that may last up to ten days at a time, but are dispersed over a period of three or four months. Episodes usually last longer in women.
Who is at risk?
Adults are usually considered to have hypersomnia if they sleep for more than ten hours a day over a period of two weeks. The mechanism that causes hypersomnia is unknown, however it is known to be hereditary and that it may also manifest as a result of anxiety disorders such as clinical depression or uremia. It is also speculated that people who are overweight are more likely to suffer from hypersomnia.
Hypersomnia is treated with various stimulants and/or drugs, including amphetamine, antidepressants and modafinil (a combination of an antidepressant and a stimulant). Dosages are based on patients’ individual needs.
If you suspect that you suffer from hypersomnia, try the following tips but if the symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
- Set specific times for going to bed and waking up. Try to make a habit of it.
- Exercise for about 20 or 30 minutes a day. For best results, do your workout about 4 to 5 hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid anything that contains caffeine. Stimulants will just disrupt your sleep pattern. Foods to be avoided are chocolate, coffee, non-herbal teas, alcohol, soft drinks and diet drugs.
- Relaxing activities like reading or a warm bath are recommended. Ensure that your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. Extreme temperatures make falling asleep much harder and may disrupt sleeping patterns.
Wikipedia(www.wikipedia.org), e-medicine (www.emedicine.com), Therapist Unlimited (www.therapistunlimited.com), Merck (www.merck.com), Talk About Sleep (www.talkaboutsleep.com), Sleep Disorders Guide (www.sleepdisordersguide.com)