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What is Hypersomnia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hypersomnia is a condition which causes excessive sleepiness, not generally due to insufficient sleep at night. Generally the person with this condition will feel the need to nap several times during the day, and may feel sleepy throughout the day. This condition may persist for more than two weeks and may be due to numerous causes. Differences in cause means that treatment varies.

Prolonged hypersomnia can cause confusion, memory loss, a decrease in energy, and anxiety that extra naps are not providing relief from. Social, family and work life can all be affected by the condition, and people with lengthy cases may lose jobs and have strained relationships with family and friends.

This is challenging because this condition is not the fault of the person and is in fact an illness. People with hypersomnia cannot simply “snap out of it” by drinking additional cups of coffee or getting more sleep. In fact, using caffeine may worsen the condition.

Sometimes certain sleep disorders cause this condition. Chiefly, sleep apnea, where a person fails to get adequate oxygen during nighttime sleeping can result in the condition. Injuries may also result in hypersomnia; particularly head injuries, like concussions can translate to excessive sleepiness.

Depression frequently causes excessive sleepiness, and further, some medications used to treat depression and other psychiatric conditions may worsen sleepiness. Brain infection like encephalitis, or viruses like Epstein-Barr may also result in hypersomnia. Conditions like epilepsy, restless legs syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis can all cause the excessive need to sleep. Obesity also may be indicated, and some people seem genetically prone to the condition.

Treating this condition means treating the underlying causes, when possible. People who are not clinically depressed and have no evidence of conditions like fibromyalgia, nighttime sleep disorders or multiple sclerosis are usually tested to see if they have active cases of mononucleosis. Sometimes a cause cannot be found, which can prove more challenging.

Idiopathic hypersomnia, not caused by an identifiable disease, may be treated with stimulants to help the person stay awake during the day. Hypersomnia with underlying causes tends to be treated through treating the underlying condition. In some cases, as with depression, people may already be on medications. Often a change in medication helps relieve the sleepiness.

Not all cases are easily treatable, especially when the underlying condition is not curable. However, changes in medication may be helpful for those who suffer from fibromyalgia or epilepsy. Changes in nighttime habits may also result in better rest at night, which may help reduce the condition’s effects during the day.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon969521 — On Sep 10, 2014

Thanks for covering this topic. Slowly but surely, the word is getting out about excessive sleepiness. I was diagnosed in 2008 and my life turned around so much as a result of what I learned about the disorder and its treatment that I ended up going back to school in my 40s to become a sleep lab technologist and sleep educator.

By anon245853 — On Feb 07, 2012

@anon196184: Agreed. I did the same thing at age 24 and what a difference. I'm on nuvigil, though. My parents always thought I was lazy and didn't want to go to school while growing up. They now understand why I was always tired. They come from a medical background so it was easy for them to accept the diagnosis.

By anon196184 — On Jul 13, 2011

@anon35011: Don't listen to the comments about being lazy from your parents. Go see a sleep doctor. I did at the age of 26 and finally started living my life. With a proper diagnosis and testing, I have done a complete 180 with the help of provigil.

By anon35011 — On Jul 01, 2009

I am usually sleepy in the day time. When I do sleep I wake up with a headache and when night comes I can still sleep. I am still sleepy. Why is that? My parents say that is laziness but I don't think so.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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