Many people often regard Hypersomnia and Narcolepsy to be the same thing, however, this is false. While they do have some similarities, there is one key difference that sets them apart – Hypersomnia involves control of awakeness with the inability to get energized and remain alert during the day, while Narcolepsy is heavy fatigue along with sudden and uncontrollable sleeping spells that causes you to fall asleep at any given time. Whichever one you’re diagnosed with, they can both have a detrimental effect on all facets of your life.
Hypersomnia is thought to affect about 5% of the global population. Apart from episodes of daytime sleepiness, other common symptoms include: Sleeping 10 hours or longer and taking daytime naps yet still not feeling refreshed, difficulty waking up in the morning, anxiety, irritability, low energy, restlessness, slower speech and thought process, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, headaches, loss of appetite and hallucinations.
There is no cure for this sleep disorder, but fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available that have shown to provide a significant level of relief, along with improved daily safety and quality of life. The type of treatment your sleep specialist will prescribe depends on the type of Hypersomnia you’ve been diagnosed with.
Usually, your doctor will prescribe a wakefulness – promoting agent as a first step, as they are less likely to cause substance abuse and have less side effects. These agents include: modafinil (Provigil®), armodafinil (Nuvigil®), pitolisant (Wakix®) and solriamfetol (Sunosi®).
If those agents prove to be unsatisfactory with symptom reduction, your doctor will switch you over to one of the following drugs:
● Psychostimulants such as amphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Daytrana®, Methylin®, Concerta®) or dextroamphetamine (Procentra®, Dexedrine®, Zenzedi®).
● Other drug options include sodium oxybate (Xyrem® or Xywav®), flumazenil (Romazicon®) and clarithromycin (Biaxin®).
Please note -it’s imperative to keep seeing your sleep specialist for follow-up appointments. Your healthcare provider needs to be kept updated on how you’re feeling, determine how well your medication is working, if dose adjustment or a switch to another medication is required.
There are various lifestyle changes that you can try in conjunction with medications to boost their effectiveness.
1. Go to bed at the same time each night. Make sure your bed is comfortable and that your bedroom is clean, well-ventilated, kept at a good temperature, dark and quiet.
2. Avoid caffeinated products within several hours of bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant, so it’s highly recommended to limit your coffee, green tea, chocolate or other caffeine sources exclusively to morning and early afternoon.
3. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Although alcohol is a depressant and seems like it might help you fall asleep, it often causes awakenings due to nightmares and nighttime sweats. Plus, alcohol is very damaging to our internal organs and overall health, so it’s best to skip it altogether.
4. Avoid tobacco and nicotine-containing products near bedtime. Nicotine is also a powerful stimulant and often causes lung cancer, so if you smoke cigarettes, you should try to quit in a gradual and healthy way.
5. Switch to a healthier diet that promotes energy and wakefulness. By far, the Mediterranean Diet has won the most favor by dieticians, sleep experts and other healthcare professionals.
When it comes to daily demands, hypersomnia can take a serious toll in many areas, such as social life, relationships, home life, etc. In order to make improvements and help others understand this condition better, it’s important to apply the following:
1. Be careful with driving, exercising, or operating equipment that can be dangerous to you or others. Work with your healthcare team, friends and family to make adaptations or adjustments to keep you and others around you safer.
2. Avoid night shift work as much as possible. Hypersomnias tend to be unfairly judged and labeled in the workplace as lazy, irresponsible, unproductive and unreliable. The best way to lift this stigma is to arrange a private meeting with your employer / loved one. Explain that you have been diagnosed with hypersomnia, provide medical proof to back it up, then work together to find acceptable solutions that will benefit everyone.
Natural remedies have also shown to be helpful for many people with hypersomnia as well, as they can help you relax and improve your quality of sleep. However, one note of caution – Always consult with a trusted and certified sleep professional beforehand, as some of these remedies may not be safe or compatible for you, or they may negatively interfere with your prescribed medication.
Some of the best and most popular natural sleeping aids include: Melatonin, Chamomile, Lavender, Valerian Root, Magnesium, PassionFlower and Glycine.
Additionally, It may also be helpful to speak with a psychologist or counselor who can direct you to a suitable support group that addresses the symptoms of hypersomnia. These groups find ways to reduce its impact on your life and everyone in it, and can make it easier for those close to you to better understand this sleep disorder.