Hypersomnia is a sleep disorder that causes extreme sleepiness and considerable emotional distress. People with hypersomnia experience frequent sleep disruptions and commonly do not feel refreshed by sleep. The sleep disruption makes waking up in the morning harder and negatively impacts a person’s alertness and mental awareness. At times, people can turn to substance abuse to function and cope with the sleep disorder.
Co-occurring substance use is commonly linked to hypersomnia disorder.
Drug Abuse as a Hindrance to Hypersomnia
Substance abuse acts as a barrier to hypersomnia treatment. There are several substances that interfere with brain functions connected to sleep. Drugs can negatively impact the amount and quality of sleep a person receives. This interference can worsen hypersomnia symptoms and prolong a person’s treatment.
Effects of Substance Abuse on Hypersomnia Symptoms
Substance abuse tends to intensify the symptoms of hypersomnia. People with hypersomnia and substance use disorder may sleep substantially at night, experience increased drowsiness during the day and may nap excessively. Drugs that impact the central nervous system in the brain can cause sleepiness. Stimulant withdrawal can also trigger symptoms of hypersomnia.
Hypersomnia and Alcohol
Alcohol interferes with the chemicals in the brain that manages and controls sleep and suppresses REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep associated with restoration. Alcohol can cause sleepiness and its side effects can negatively impact normal sleep cycles. Alcohol can cause hypersomnia because people can have trouble falling asleep, have multiple awakenings during the night, daytime sleepiness and experience overall poorer sleep quality.
Marijuana Abuse and Hypersomnia
Marijuana can impact normal sleep patterns and interfere with chemicals in the brain linked with sleep. Marijuana can suppress REM sleep or the stage of sleep associated with restoration. Marijuana initially promotes sleep, but chronic or discontinued use can negatively impact sleep quality, which can lead to continued marijuana abuse.
Stimulants promote the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a key factor for wake-promotion. Stimulants, or derivatives of amphetamines, may be used to increase alertness but can have potentially harmful side effects. To date, methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine are the only two stimulant medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hypersomnia symptoms. Stimulants seek to treat a person’s symptoms but do not target the principal causes of hypersomnia. Stimulants have a high abuse potential that can ultimately lead to dependence. Stimulant medications prescribed can include:
- Modafinil increases wakefulness and reduces excessive fatigue
- Methylphenidate improves alertness and prevents fatigue
- Dextroamphetamine improves daytime wakefulness
Stimulant medications have a high potential for abuse and can be increasingly dangerous when combined with alcohol and other drugs. People may abuse:
- Crystal meth increases wakefulness, attention, and energy
- Cocaine increases alertness and impacts dopamine, which has an impact on wakefulness and sleep patterns. People that use cocaine may have trouble falling asleep and experience more frequent awakenings.
Drug Abuse as a Cause of Hypersomnia
Hypersomnia may initially be set off by substance abuse. Alcohol, marijuana and opiates are substances that can cause hypersomnia. These substances can also initiate other sleep issues that can result in daytime sleepiness. The prolonged use or withdrawal of substances can also cause hypersomnia and negatively impact sleep pattern and quality.
Statistics on Hypersomnia and Drug Abuse
To develop effective methods of treatment for a substance use disorder and hypersomnia, studies were conducted and it was learned that hypersomnia caused by substance abuse is involved in approximately one-third of deaths from motor vehicle accidents.
Treating Hypersomnia with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse
Careful consideration should go into the development of a treatment plan for a person with co-occurring hypersomnia and a substance use disorder. Stimulants are the first-line treatment for hypersomnia and have high abuse potential. It is important to tailor treatment for hypersomnia with a patient’s substance use disorder in mind. Stimulants should not be used in treatment if an individual abuses stimulants. Treatment should address a patient’s hypersomnia disorder and addiction simultaneously in order to effectively address both conditions.
Substance abuse can intensify, worsen and cause symptoms of hypersomnia. Ultimately, substance abuse can prolong and complicate hypersomnia treatment. Stimulants have a high abuse potential and are commonly used to treat hypersomnia, which can be problematic for someone with a co-occurring substance use disorder. Therefore, treatment options should be individualized and considered carefully to achieve the most effective outcomes.
When hypersomnia is co-occurring with a substance use disorder, individuals must treat both conditions simultaneously. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use and co-occurring disorder like hypersomnia, consider contacting the Recovery Village. At the Recovery Village, a team of professionals can help address addiction and co-occurring disorders. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which treatment program could work for you.