Idiopathic Hypersomnia

Last updated: May 20, 2019

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The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH) is a type of rare sleep disorder. Individuals with IH feel excessively sleepy during the day. A person with IH feels sleepy even after getting a full night’s sleep. A person with IH also has difficulty waking up after sleeping. The difficulty in waking up happens even when an individual with idiopathic hypersomnia just had a nap. People with this sleep disorder also don’t find naps refreshing. This can affect a patient’s productivity at work.

The excessive sleepiness associated with this condition can strike anytime. It can strike even when a patient is active. These include instances when the person is performing activities like working or driving a motor vehicle. This makes idiopathic hypersomnia a potentially dangerous disorder.

What causes idiopathic hypersomnia?

The exact cause of idiopathic hypersomnia is unknown. In some cases doctors found an over-production of a small molecule that mimics the effects of an anesthetic or a sleeping pill.

The exact composition of this molecule is unknown. However, this molecule interacts with y-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a principal player in the brain mechanisms that control and promote sleep. This molecule enhances the sleep-inducing actions of GABA.

What are the symptoms of Idiopathic Hypersomnia?

Symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia include:

  • Chronic excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Unrefreshing sleep that lasts 9 hours or more during a 24-hour period
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Non-refreshing daytime naps
  • Headaches
  • Problems with memory, concentration, and attention

There are also less-common symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia. These include:

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  • Short sleep latency
  • Reynaud’s disease
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Sleep-related hallucinations

How is idiopathic hypersomnia treated?

The treatment for idiopathic hypersomnia is not for the disorder itself. The treatment targets excessive daytime sleepiness instead. There are no FDA-approved treatments for this disorder. Doctors often prescribe off-label use of medications for narcolepsy. These include:

  • Wakefulness-promoting medications. These include armodafinil and modafinil
  • Traditional psychostimulants.  Examples are amphetamines, methylphenidate, and their derivatives.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.

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