Sleep Disorder : Hypersomnia

Sleep hygiene

Approximately 0.3% of the population suffers from hypersomnia, a neurological disorder characterized by severe daytime sleepiness. It affects both wakefulness and sleep, with serious repercussions on lifestyle.
What causes this sleep disorder? How can it be identified and treated?

Hypersomnia: a condition that combines several sleep disorders

Hypersomnia is the name given to a group of neurological diseases with similar symptoms :

  • Narcolepsy: an irrepressible need to sleep during the day. It can also generate a symptom of cataplexy (sudden decrease in muscle tone in response to a positive emotion).
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia: this condition takes the form of excessive sleepiness at night, with frequent naps during the day. The main symptoms are constant tiredness and difficulty waking up.
  • Recurrent hypersomnia: characterized by repeated bouts of sleepiness, as well as disturbances in psychological, eating and sexual behavior.

Hypersomnia affects both men and women, and most often begins in adolescence or early adulthood.

What are the causes of this syndrome?

The causes of hypersomnia vary according to the nature of the condition. It is also known that these sleep disorders can run in families in around 25% of cases.

Narcolepsy-cataplexy is thought to be caused by a deficiency in the secretion of a brain neurotransmitter, hypocretin, which is responsible for the passage of certain information required for sleep.

Unfortunately, the causes of idiopathic and recurrent hypersomnias are not known. Dysfunctions related to waking sleep processes are currently being investigated.

How is hypersomnia assessed and treated?

A diagnosis by exclusion reveals hypersomnia by eliminating other possible sleep disorders (sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, etc.). This diagnosis must be carried out in a competent care center. Several tests are usually performed:

  • An iterative sleep latency test: carried out every two hours, its purpose is to measure the speed of onset of sleep, as well as the difficulties experienced on awakening. A wakefulness maintenance test: the aim of this test is to combat the onset of sleep while being installed in conditions conducive to falling asleep.
  • In addition to psychostimulant drugs, effective treatments for hypersomnia include alternative therapies such as sleep nutrition and behavioral therapy.
  • The consequences of hypersomnia can be very negative, with a lasting impact on the patient’s quality of life. Like all sleep disorders, it needs to be identified and treated as early as possible. To help you better assess the quality of your sleep, we suggest you calculate your level of sleepiness via an online test.