Hypersomnolence: Suffering From More than Just Fatigue


Estimates from sleep clinics suggest that between 60-70% of children and adults complain of having excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). While fatigue is a part of being human, recurring instances of falling asleep during expected wakeful hours is not. When a person is unable to stay awake during the day or has constant and recurring EDS, he/she has hypersomnolence. Sleep medicine experts have identified numerous conditions in which hypersomnolence is common, such as obesity, diabetes, anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency, and certain medications. However, for many people pre-existing conditions and medication do not cause their sleepiness. In this case, it is important to evaluate other factors that may be the root cause of hypersomnolence.

Factors Related to Hypersomnolence

Additional factors associated with causing hypersomnolence can be sorted into three categories:

1) Quantity of Sleep: Adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per 24 period; children require an additional 1 to 4 hours depending on their age. If you are not getting enough restorative sleep, you may have inadequate sleep hygiene, a circadian rhythm disorder, or a sleep disorder.

To evaluate your sleep hygiene, use the acronym B-E-E-F-I: • What are your pre-sleep Behaviors? • Is your Environment conducive for restful sleep? • Do you Exercise no more than 2 hours before bed? • Is your Food intake limited to within 2 hours before sleep? • Do you employ Interventions that promote relaxation 30 minutes prior to sleep?

To help reset your circadian rhythm, try to spend a few hours a day outside in the sun. Finally, other sleep disorders, such as insomnia, movement disorders, or sleep-related breathing disorders, may cause a delay in sleep onset. See a sleep medicine expert for treatment options.

2) Quality of Sleep: Aside from getting the required amount of sleep you need, it is also imperative that your sleep be restorative. Poor sleep can be caused by a variety of factors: sleep-disordered breathing with pauses in breath, periodic limb movements, sleep fragmentation caused by interruptions in sleep and brain arousal, and medical/psychological conditions that result in light and unrefreshed sleep. Since most of these factors are too subtle to detect, a person can suffer from poor sleep quality and the symptom of hypersomnolence for years before getting a proper diagnosis.

3) Disorders of Arousal Hypersomnolence can also be caused by disorders that affect either the stability of the sleep-wake cycle or disorders that result in central nervous system arousal deficiency. These conditions, which are rare and begin in adolescence, may take several years to diagnose. Some disorders of arousal include narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.

Diagnosis Chart

The sleep medicine experts at FusionHealth have created a user-friendly hypersomnolence diagnosis chart.