People with hypersomnia may sleep excessively or at inappropriate times. Learn how to identify and address symptoms of hypersomnia.

While the occasional afternoon nap can be restorative and even beneficial, excessive sleep or sleepiness during the day — known as hypersomnia — can be disruptive to everyday life. Importantly, hypersomnia is characterized by the overwhelming need for sleep at inappropriate times, such as during a meal or mid-conversation, and symptoms usually do not improve following sleep. Daily feelings of fatigue can significantly impact work, home and social life.

Sleep plays an important role in feeling rested and alert and contributes to well-being and productivity. However, with the increasing role of technology and extended work days in modern society, reports of sleep problems are increasing.

Prevalence of Hypersomnia

Although a significant portion of the population report not getting enough sleep, the prevalence of hypersomnia is estimated to be between 4–6% of the population. Several groups might be more likely to experience hypersomnia, including people with another sleep disorder or people with irregular schedules, such as shift workers. Sleep difficulties are more commonly reported in women than in men.

Diagnosing Hypersomnia

A diagnosis of hypersomnia goes beyond reports of not getting a good night’s sleep or occasional daytime sleepiness. Hypersomnia can be a result of several causes, and the exact origin of daytime sleepiness can be challenging to determine.

To be diagnosed with hypersomnia, a person must:

  • Have symptoms daily for at least three months
  • Have sleepiness symptoms that are not improved by a good night’s rest
  • Experience symptoms that are not easily explained by another sleep disorder or illness

The process of diagnosing hypersomnia usually involves a score of 10 or above on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which asks people to rate how likely they are to doze off or fall asleep in different situations. Diagnosis can also include reporting or observing certain characteristics, such as difficulty falling asleep or abnormal REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

Hypersomnia can also be diagnosed as a consequence of another sleep-related condition, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. In general, hypersomnia may be diagnosed where excessive daytime sleepiness is not better explained by another condition.

Hypersomnia and Co-Occurring Conditions

Hypersomnia can occur alongside a range of conditions that may disrupt healthy sleep. Sleep apnea is noted as one of the leading causes of hypersomnia, which is more common in men. People with narcolepsy — a sleep disorder characterized by short, sudden bursts of deep sleep — also frequently report excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep and mental health are closely linked. Sleep disturbance is a common symptom of depression, and poor sleep can worsen mood. Since people with hypersomnia are often short on sleep, they often display symptoms similar to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as difficulty focusing or poor cognitive performance. As excessive daytime sleepiness can be quite disruptive to normal functioning, some people may use medications, alcohol or illicit drugs to encourage sleep.

Statistics on Hypersomnia Treatment

There are several treatment options for excessive daytime sleepiness, and treatment for hypersomnia can be tailored once the source of hypersomnia is understood. Treatment strategies may include:

  • Various medications to increase daytime alertness
  • Sleep hygiene practices
  • Management of co-occurring disorders, like sleep apnea or depression

Excessive daytime sleepiness can take a toll on mental and physical well being, and disrupt the ability to live life normally. If you or someone you care about is abusing substances as a way to cope with hypersomnia, contact The Recovery Village today to discuss our comprehensive treatment options.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Sarah Dash, PHD
Dr. Sarah Dash is a postdoctoral research fellow based in Toronto. Sarah completed her PhD in Nutritional Psychiatry at the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in 2017. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.