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Hypersomnia, is a neurological disorder of excessive time spent sleeping or excessive sleepiness. It can have many possible causes[1] and can cause distress and problems with functioning.[2] In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), hypersomnolence, of which there are several subtypes, appears under sleep-wake disorders.[3]

Other namesHypersomnolence
SpecialtyPsychiatry, Sleep medicine

Hypersomnia is a pathological state which is characterized by a lack of alertness during the waking episodes of the day. [4] It is not to be confused with fatigue, which is a normal physiological state. [5] Daytime sleepiness appears most commonly during situations where little interaction is needed. [6]



The main symptom of hypersomnia is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), or prolonged nighttime sleep,[7] which has occurred for at least 3 months prior to diagnosis.[8]


"The severity of daytime sleepiness needs to be quantified by subjective scales (at least the Epworth Sleepiness Scale) and objective tests such as the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT)."[8] The Stanford sleepiness scale (SSS) is another frequently-used subjective measurement of sleepiness.[9] After it is determined that excessive daytime sleepiness is present, a complete medical examination and full evaluation of potential disorders in the differential diagnosis (which can be tedious, expensive and time-consuming) should be undertaken.[8]

Differential diagnosisEdit

Hypersomnia can be primary (of central/brain origin), or it can be secondary to any of numerous medical conditions. More than one type of hypersomnia can coexist in a single patient. Even in the presence of a known cause of hypersomnia, the contribution of this cause to the complaint of excessive daytime sleepiness needs to be assessed. When specific treatments of the known condition do not fully suppress excessive daytime sleepiness, additional causes of hypersomnia should be sought.[10] For example, if a patient with sleep apnea is treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which resolves their apneas but not their excessive daytime sleepiness, it is necessary to seek other causes for the excessive daytime sleepiness. Obstructive sleep apnea “occurs frequently in narcolepsy and may delay the diagnosis of narcolepsy by several years and interfere with its proper management.”[11]

Primary hypersomniasEdit

The true primary hypersomnias include these: narcolepsy (with and without cataplexy); idiopathic hypersomnia; and recurrent hypersomnias (like Klein-Levin syndrome).[8]

Primary hypersomnia mimicsEdit

There are also several genetic disorders that may be associated with primary/central hypersomnia. These include the following: Prader-Willi syndrome; Norrie disease; Niemann–Pick disease, type C; and myotonic dystrophy. However, hypersomnia in these syndromes may also be associated with other secondary causes, so it is important to complete a full evaluation. Myotonic dystrophy is often associated with SOREMPs (sleep onset REM periods, such as occur in narcolepsy).[8]

There are many neurological disorders that may mimic the primary hypersomnias, narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia: brain tumors; stroke-provoking lesions; and dysfunction in the thalamus, hypothalamus, or brainstem. Also, neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or multiple system atrophy are frequently associated with primary hypersomnia. However, in these cases, one must still rule out other secondary causes.[8]

Early hydrocephalus can also cause severe excessive daytime sleepiness.[12] Additionally, head trauma can be associated with a primary/central hypersomnia, and symptoms similar to those of idiopathic hypersomnia can be seen within 6–18 months following the trauma. However, the associated symptoms of headaches, memory loss, and lack of concentration may be more frequent in head trauma than in idiopathic hypersomnia. "The possibility of secondary narcolepsy following head injury in previously asymptomatic individuals has also been reported."[8]

Secondary hypersomniasEdit

Secondary hypersomnias are extremely numerous.

Hypersomnia can be secondary to disorders such as clinical depression, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, epilepsy, or obesity.[13] Hypersomnia can also be a symptom of other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea.[13] It may occur as an adverse effect of taking certain medications, of withdrawal from some medications, or of drug or alcohol abuse.[13] A genetic predisposition may also be a factor.[13] In some cases it results from a physical problem, such as a tumor, head trauma, or dysfunction of the autonomic or central nervous system.[13]

Sleep apnea is the second most frequent cause of secondary hypersomnia, affecting up to 4% of middle-aged adults, mostly men. Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is a clinical variant of sleep apnea that can also cause hypersomnia.[8] Just as other sleep disorders (like narcolepsy) can coexist with sleep apnea, the same is true for UARS. There are many cases of UARS in which excessive daytime sleepiness persists after CPAP treatment, indicating an additional cause, or causes, of the hypersomnia and requiring further evaluation.[10]

Sleep movement disorders, such as restless legs syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD or PLMS) can also cause secondary hypersomnia. Although RLS does commonly cause excessive daytime sleepiness, PLMS does not. There is no evidence that PLMS plays "a role in the etiology of daytime sleepiness. In fact, two studies showed no correlation between PLMS and objective measures of excessive daytime sleepiness. In addition, EDS in these patients is best treated with psychostimulants and not with dopaminergic agents known to suppress PLMS."[10]

Neuromuscular diseases and spinal cord diseases often lead to sleep disturbances due to respiratory dysfunction causing sleep apnea, and they may also cause insomnia related to pain.[14] "Other sleep alterations, such as periodic limb movement disorders in patients with spinal cord disease, have also been uncovered with the widespread use of polysomnography."[14]

Primary hypersomnia in diabetes, hepatic encephalopathy, and acromegaly is rarely reported, but these medical conditions may also be associated with the secondary hypersomnias sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).[8]

Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia can also be associated with hypersomnia. Regarding chronic fatigue syndrome, it is "characterized by persistent or relapsing fatigue that does not resolve with sleep or rest. Polysomnography shows reduced sleep efficiency and may include alpha intrusion into sleep EEG. It is likely that a number of cases labeled as chronic fatigue syndrome are unrecognized cases of upper airway resistance syndrome"[15] or other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, PLMD, etc.[16]

Similarly to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia also may be associated with anomalous alpha wave activity (typically associated with arousal states) during NREM sleep.[17] Also, researchers have shown that disrupting stage IV sleep consistently in young, healthy subjects causes a significant increase in muscle tenderness similar to that experienced in "neurasthenic musculoskeletal pain syndrome". This pain resolved when the subjects were able to resume their normal sleep patterns.[18]Chronic kidney disease is commonly associated with sleep symptoms and excessive daytime sleepiness. For those on dialysis, approximately 80% have sleep disturbances. Sleep apnea can occur 10 times as often in uremic patients than in the general population and can affect up to 30-80% of patients on dialysis, though nighttime dialysis can improve this. About 50% of dialysis patients have hypersomnia, as severe kidney disease can cause uremic encephalopathy, increased sleep-inducing cytokines, and impaired sleep efficiency. About 70% of dialysis patients are affected by insomnia, and RLS and PLMD affect 30%, though these may improve after dialysis or kidney transplant.[19]

Most forms of cancer and their therapies can cause fatigue and disturbed sleep, affecting 25-99% of patients and often lasting for years after treatment completion. "Insomnia is common and a predictor of fatigue in cancer patients, and polysomnography demonstrates reduced sleep efficiency, prolonged initial sleep latency, and increased wake time during the night." Paraneoplastic syndromes can also cause insomnia, hypersomnia, and parasomnias.[19]

Autoimmune diseases, especially lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are often associated with hypersomnia, as well. Morvan's syndrome is an example of a more rare autoimmune illness that can also lead to hypersomnia.[19] Celiac disease is another autoimmune disease associated with poor sleep quality (which may lead to hypersomnia), "not only at diagnosis but also during treatment with a gluten-free diet."[20] There are also some case reports of central hypersomnia in celiac disease.[21] And RLS "has been shown to be frequent in celiac disease," presumably due to its associated iron deficiency.[20][21]

Hypothyroidism and iron deficiency with or without (iron-deficiency anemia) can also cause secondary hypersomnia. Various tests for these disorders are done so they can be treated.[22] Hypersomnia can also develop within months after viral infections such as Whipple's disease, mononucleosis, HIV, and Guillain–Barré syndrome.[8]

Behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome must also be considered in the differential diagnosis of secondary hypersomnia. This disorder occurs in individuals who fail to get sufficient sleep for at least three months. In this case, the patient has chronic sleep deprivation although he or she is not necessarily aware of it. This situation is becoming more prevalent in western society due to the modern demands and expectations placed upon the individual.[8]

Many medications can also lead to secondary hypersomnia. Therefore, a patient's complete medication list should be carefully reviewed for sleepiness or fatigue as side effects. In these cases, careful withdrawal from the possibly offending medication(s) is needed; then, medication substitution can be undertaken.[8]

Mood disorders, like depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder, can also be associated with hypersomnia. The complaint of excessive daytime sleepiness in these conditions is often associated with poor sleep at night. "In that sense, insomnia and EDS are frequently associated, especially in cases of depression."[8] Hypersomnia in mood disorders seems to be primarily related to "lack of interest and decreased energy inherent in the depressed condition rather than an increase in sleep or REM sleep propensity". In all cases with these mood disorders, the MSLT is normal (not too short and no SOREMPs).[8]

Assessment toolsEdit


Polysomnography is helpful to identify the very short sleep onset latency period, the very efficient sleep (more than 90%), the increased slow wave sleep and sometimes an elevated amount of sleep spindles in idiopathic hypersomnia patients.[23]

Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)Edit

The Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) is often administered the day after recording the polysomnography, and the mean sleep latency score is often found to be around (or less than) 8 minutes in idiopathic hypersomnia patients.[23] Some patients might even have a sleep onset latency of 5 minutes or less. These patients are often even more aware of sleeping during naps than narcolepsy patients.


An actigraphy over several days can show longer sleep periods, which are characteristic for idiopathic hypersomnia.[24] Actigraphy is also helpful in ruling out other sleep disorders, especially circadian disorders, leading to an excess of sleepiness during the day, too.


Although "there has been no cure of chronic hypersomnia", there are several treatments that may improve patients' quality of life, depending on the specific cause or causes of hypersomnia that are diagnosed.[8]

Because the causes of hypersomnia are unknown, it is only possible to treat symptoms and not directly the cause of this disorder.[25] A reduction of time in bed has been shown to be helpful. Behavioral treatments as well s sleep hygiene have to be discussed with the patient and are recommended, however, they might have only few beneficial outcomes. There are several pharmacological agents that have been prescribed to patients with hypersomnia, but few have been found to be efficient.[24] Modafinil has been found to be the most effective drug against the excessive sleepiness and has even been shown to be helpful in children with hypersomnia.[26] The dosage is started at 100 mg per day and then slowly increased to 400 mg per day.[27]


Hypersomnia affects approximately 5% of the general population,[28] "with a higher prevalence for men due to the sleep apnea syndromes".[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Reynolds, Charles F.; O’Hara, Ruth (2013). "DSM-5 Sleep-Wake Disorders Classification: Overview for Use in Clinical Practice". The American Journal of Psychiatry. 170 (10): 1099–1101. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13010058. PMID 24084814. The aim is simply to acknowledge the bidirectional and interactive effects between sleep disorders and coexisting medical and psychiatric illnesses.
  2. ^ "Sleep Disorders". American Psychiatric Association. 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  3. ^ "Recent Updates to Proposed Revisions for DSM-5: Sleep-Wake Disorders". DSM-5 Development. American Psychiatric Association.
  4. ^ American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The international classification of sleep disorders: diagnostic & coding manual (2nd ed). West- chester, IL: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2005.
  5. ^ Grossman, A., Barenboim, E., Azaria, B., Sherer, Y., & Goldstein, L. (2004). The maintenance of wakefulness test as a predictor of alertness in aircrew members with idiopathic hypersomnia. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 75(3), 281–283.
  6. ^ Wise, M. S., Arand, D. L., Auger, R. R., Brooks, S. N., & Watson, N. F. (2007). Treatment of narcolepsy and other hypersomnias of central origin. Sleep, 30(12), 1712–1727.
  7. ^ "NINDS Hypersomnia information page"
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Dauvilliers, Yves; et al. (2006). "Differential Diagnosis in Hypersomnia". Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 6 (2): 156–162. doi:10.1007/s11910-996-0039-2. PMID 16522270.
  9. ^ Neil Freedman, MD. "Quantifying sleepiness". Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  10. ^ a b c Montplaisir (2001). "Idiopathic hypersomnia: a diagnostic dilemma. A commentary of "Idiopathic hypersomnia" (M. Billiard and Y. Dauvilliers)". Sleep Medicine Reviews. 5 (5): 361–362. doi:10.1053/smrv.2001.0216. PMID 12530999.
  11. ^ Sansa, G; Iranzo, Alex; Santamaria, Joan (Jan 2010). "Obstructive sleep apnea in narcolepsy". Sleep Med. 11 (1): 93–5. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2009.02.009. PMID 19699146.
  12. ^ "International classification of sleep disorders, revised: Diagnostic and coding manual" (PDF). American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e National Institutes of Health (June 2008). "NINDS Hypersomnia Information Page". Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  14. ^ Billiard M, Dauvilliers Y (October 2001). "Idiopathic Hypersomnia". Sleep Med Rev. 5 (5): 349–358. doi:10.1053/smrv.2001.0168. PMID 12530998.
  15. ^ Gotts ZM, Deary V, Newton J, Van der Dussen D, De Roy P, Ellis JG (June 2013). "Are there sleep-specific phenotypes in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome? A cross-sectional polysomnography analysis". BMJ Open. 3 (6): e002999. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002999. PMC 3669720. PMID 23794547.
  16. ^ Moldofsky H, Scarisbrick P, England R, Smythe H (1975). "Musculosketal symptoms and non-REM sleep disturbance in patients with "fibrositis syndrome" and healthy subjects". Psychosom Med. 37 (4): 341–51. doi:10.1097/00006842-197507000-00008. PMID 169541.
  17. ^ Moldofsky H, Scarisbrick P (1976). "Induction of neurasthenic musculoskeletal pain syndrome by selective sleep stage deprivation". Psychosom Med. 38 (1): 35–44. doi:10.1097/00006842-197601000-00006. PMID 176677.
  18. ^ a b c Lewis, Steven L. (2013). Neurological disorders due to systemic disease. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 261–282. ISBN 978-1-4443-3557-6.
  19. ^ a b Zingone F, Siniscalchi M, Capone P, Tortora R, Andreozzi P, Capone E, Ciacci C (October 2010). "The quality of sleep in patients with coeliac disease". Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 32 (8): 1031–6. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2010.04432.x. ISSN 0269-2813. PMID 20937049.
  20. ^ a b "Abstractverwaltung Congrex". Retrieved Aug 10, 2014.
  21. ^ "About Idiopathic Hypersomnia". Hypersomnia Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  22. ^ a b Bassetti, Claudio L.; Dauvilliers, Yves (2011), "Idiopathic Hypersomnia", Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, Elsevier, pp. 969–979, ISBN 9781416066453, retrieved 2019-05-31
  23. ^ a b Bassetti, Claudio L. Billiard, M. (Michel) Mignot, Emmanuel. (2007). Narcolepsy and hypersomnia. Informa Healthcare. ISBN 0849337151. OCLC 74460642.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  24. ^ Bassetti, C.L.; Fulda, S. (2013), "Types of Hypersomnia", Encyclopedia of Sleep, Elsevier, pp. 413–417, ISBN 9780123786111, retrieved 2019-05-31
  25. ^ Anderson, Kirstie N.; Pilsworth, Samantha; Sharples, Linda D.; Smith, Ian E.; Shneerson, John M. (October 2007). "Idiopathic Hypersomnia: A Study of 77 Cases". Sleep. 30 (10): 1274–1281. doi:10.1093/sleep/30.10.1274. ISSN 1550-9109.
  26. ^ Ivanenko, Anna; Tauman, Riva; Gozal, David (November 2003). "Modafinil in the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness in children". Sleep Medicine. 4 (6): 579–582. doi:10.1016/s1389-9457(03)00162-x. ISSN 1389-9457.
  27. ^ Geddes, J., Gelder, M., Price, J., Mayou, R., McKnight, R. Psychiatry. 4th ed. Oxford University Press; 2012. p365. ISBN 978-0199233960

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