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Excessive Sleepiness- There’s A Name For That

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Excessive Sleepiness- There’s A Name For That

Sleepy all day? That may not be laziness at all. Excessive sleepiness, also called hypersomnolence, is a common experience for one-third of Americans that are chronically sleep-deprived. According to a National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll, 43% of people report that daytime sleepiness interferes with their activities at least a few days a month. One in five people report experiencing daytime sleepiness at least a few days a week.


Hypersomnolence is not a disorder in itself, it’s a symptom of other conditions. Most cases of excessive sleepiness are related to insufficient or interrupted sleep. Poor sleep may result from a variety of conditions, including sleep disorders like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and sleep-related movement disorders.


For some people though, extreme tiredness isn’t the result of other conditions and can’t be relieved after a full night’s rest. When hypersomnolence is not caused by disrupted sleep or another sleep disorder, it may be classified as a central disorder of hypersomnia.



Hypersomnia is a medical term used to describe a variety of conditions in which a person feels excessively tired or sleeps longer than usual. Some researchers classify hypersomnia as either primary or secondary. Primary hypersomnia is a neurological condition that occurs on its own and has no known underlying cause. Secondary hypersomnia occurs as the result of an underlying medical condition.


Secondary Hypersomnias

Hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness, is often secondary to, or a symptom of, other medical conditions. Hypersomnia can be classified as secondary when it is due to medical conditions, medications, substances, psychiatric disorders, or insufficient sleep syndrome.

  • Hypersomnia due to a medical condition: Medical conditions that may cause hypersomnia include Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and even obesity. Hypersomnia can also develop as a result of tumors, traumatic brain injuries, and diseases of the nervous system.

  • Hypersomnia due to a medication or substance: Certain sedating medications, alcohol, and drug use can cause hypersomnia. Hypersomnia can also be a symptom of withdrawal from stimulant drugs and some medications.

  • Insufficient sleep syndrome: Perhaps the most straightforward cause of hypersomnia, insufficient sleep syndrome occurs when a person persistently fails to get sufficient sleep. Poor sleep hygiene or night shift work may cause a person to develop the inability to obtain the required amount of sleep.

  • Hypersomnia associated with a psychiatric disorder: Many mood disorders may cause hypersomnia, including depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.


Primary Hypersomnias

Primary hypersomnia describes hypersomnia that occurs on its own and is not secondary to another condition. Central disorders of hypersomnia that can be classified as primary include narcolepsy type 1 and type 2, Kleine-Levin syndrome, and idiopathic hypersomnia.

  • Narcolepsy type 1: Narcolepsy type 1, also called narcolepsy with cataplexy, is a chronic neurological disorder caused by an insufficient amount of a neurotransmitter called orexin. Although hypersomnolence is one symptom of narcolepsy type 1, other symptoms include cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness), sleep paralysis, and hallucinations.

  • Narcolepsy type 2: Narcolepsy type 2 includes many of the same symptoms of type 1, but doesn’t include cataplexy and isn’t caused by a loss of orexin.

  • Kleine-Levin syndrome: Kleine-Levin syndrome is characterized by recurring episodes of extreme hypersomnolence that occur alongside mental, behavioral, and even psychiatric disturbances. This condition primarily affects young males and episodes often decrease over a period of 8 to 12 years.

  • Idiopathic hypersomnia: If a patient has excessive sleepiness, without cataplexy, that isn’t refreshed by naps or sleep, they may be diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia.


Sleep disorders can be overwhelming and discouraging at times. Campbell County Health's Sleep Center is designed to monitor and evaluate people during sleep, providing information for healthcare providers to diagnose and treat sleeping disorders in Gillette, Wyoming. Have questions? Give us a call: 307-688-2350


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  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine