By definition, hypersomnia is constant, or constantly recurring bouts of, ‘excessive daytime sleepiness’.
Unrelated to any other condition, hypersomnia can be considered a sleep disorder, but it is more often symptomatic of other factors, health conditions and sleep disorders.
If the sleep disorder is severe, the resulting hypersomnia is also usually severe, over time becoming a serious sleep disorder in itself.
Primary hypersomnia originates in the brain. Depending on the specific cause and how severe the daytime sleepiness, it can certainly be classed as a serious sleep disorder.
Secondary hypersomnia can be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder, or a side-effect of medication. It can also be a side-effect of ill health, age-related hormonal and other changes, acute anxiety, chronic stress conditions, bad diet, alcohol and drug abuse, bad sleeping habits, or environmental factors that disturb night-time sleeping (such as noise or light pollution).
- It is frequently symptomatic of sleep apnea and is often a precursor to an apnea diagnosis.
- Sudden onset or relentless hypersomnia is often a primary indicator of the start, escalation, or severity of a sleep apnea condition.
Secondary hypersomnia is very common, affecting up to 20% of a population. It can be symptomatic of a serious sleep disorder, or it can be serious in itself: chronic hypersomnia will have profoundly serious effects on one’s mental and physical functioning, with potentially very severe impacts on one’s life, health and wellbeing over the long-term.
When ‘daytime sleepiness’ becomes a serious sleep disorder:
Left untreated, hypersomnia can have serious consequences. Excessive daytime sleepiness can seriously impact the quality of one’s day-to-day, relationships, work performance and career outcomes. It can also be dangerous, with sufferers of chronic hypersomnia more likely to have car and other accidents.
Although distinct from Narcolepsy, severe hypersomnia can present in the same way, with sufferers falling asleep during the day anywhere, without warning.
Chronic hypersomnia commonly leads to:
- Anxiety disorders
- Diminished brain functioning, with reduced attention, focus, creativity and problem-solving abilities. It can also result in increasing deficiencies in ‘executive functions’. This can have myriad, cumulative, and potentially very serious effects the sufferer’s life.