Idiopathic hypersomnia

Idiopathic hypersomnia is a sleep disorder without a clear cause, in which you are excessively sleepy (hypersomnia) during the day. It is different from narcolepsy, because idiopathic hypersomnia does not involve suddenly falling asleep or losing muscle control due to strong emotions (cataplexy).

Causes of Idiopathic hypersomnia

The usual approach is to consider other potential causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Other sleep disorders that may cause daytime sleepiness include:

Other causes of excessive sleepiness include:

Idiopathic hypersomnia Symptoms

Symptoms often develop slowly during adolescence or young adulthood. They include:

  • Daytime naps that do not relieve drowsiness
  • Difficulty waking from a long sleep -- may feel confused or disoriented
  • Increased need for sleep during the day -- even while at work, or during a meal or conversation
  • Increased sleep time -- up to 14 to 18 hours per day

Other symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling irritated
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low energy
  • Restlessness
  • Slow thinking or speech
  • Trouble remembering

Cataplexy -- suddenly falling asleep or losing muscle control -- which is part of narcolepsy, is not a symptom of idiopathic hypersomnia.

Tests and Exams

The health care provider will take a detailed sleep history. Tests may include:

  • Multiple-sleep latency test
  • Sleep study (polysomnography, to identify other sleep disorders)

A psychiatric evaluation for atypical depression may also be done.

Treatment of Idiopathic hypersomnia

Idiopathic hypersomnia is usually treated with stimulant medications such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, and modafinil. These medicines may not work as well for this condition as they do for narcolepsy.

Lifestyle changes that can help ease symptoms and prevent injury include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and medications that can make the condition worse
  • Avoiding operating motor vehicles or using dangerous equipment
  • Avoiding working at night or social activities that delay bedtime

References

Chokroverty S, Avidan AY. Sleep and its disorders. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 68.

Masri TJ, Gonzales CG, Kushida CA. Idiopathic hypersomnia. Sleep Med Clin. 2012;7:283-289.

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Review Date: 5/30/2013
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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