Everyone loves having the time to take a nap, so it can be hard to imagine what would be so bad about having a condition like idiopathic hypersomnia and napping a lot.
Unfortunately, idiopathic hypersomnia is a very disruptive condition. The good news is it is very rare.
People who think that they might have it usually are afflicted by another condition.
The testing and criteria for it are rigorous. It isn’t nearly as pleasant as it sounds as the person has next to no control over what happens.
What is the definition of idiopathic?
Idiopathic means that the condition, disease or circumstance has come about for no known reason.
It is considered to be a spontaneous generation of a long term problem. This is what makes idiopathic hypersomnia so hard to treat, it can be very difficult to understand that which only happens spontaneously and not as a result of inherited tendency or acquired disorder.
What is idiopathic hypersomnia?
Idiopathic hypersomnia is when a person may sleep an adequate schedule with good sleep hygiene, or they may even sleep too much, and are still physically compelled to take long naps during the day.
The compelling occurs in much the same fashion as that which compels a narcoleptic to fall asleep. The naps for someone with idiopathic hypersomnia are hours long.
During this sleep the person is in such a deep state that it is difficult to wake them.
They do not experience any renewal of energy or wakefulness from the sleep. In idiopathic hypersomnia, the person may also not move or even have eye movements.
They may experience sleep paralysis too. This condition is considered to be a type of sleep deprivation itself.
Sleep deprivation includes any condition that deprives the body of the process of rest and renewal.
What causes it?
No one really knows what causes this condition and it is not related to other conditions as far as research can tell.
There have been some recent clinical studies that suggest there is a neurological sensitivity to GABA processes in the brain.
It isn’t known if this is an actual cause or if it is just common in some people who have idiopathic hypersomnia.
There are also some suggestion that there may be a neural misfire in the process of receiving the waking hormones and the functioning of the circadian rhythm.
Unfortunately, idiopathic hypersomnia causes the same severe neurological effects as sleep deprivation as it is a long term condition.
Who is at risk?
There is no identified risk group for idiopathic hypersomnia because it comes about spontaneously as far as researchers can tell.
Objective reviews past cases don’t reveal a common group typing. It is known that idiopathic hypersomnia is a chronic and long term condition.
If you develop it, it will last for many years. Idiopathic hypersomnia can occur in children or adults; however it is very rare that it does occur.
What are the symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia?
The main symptom of idiopathic hypersomnia is that the person is takes long naps during the day that they are physically and neurologically compelled to take.
They can exhibit a drunken like stupor or lack of coordination prior to sleeping. The naps are hours long and do not refresh the person or make them feel less tired.
Often, the naps make the person more tired. It is not uncommon for them to experience lucid dreaming or other very vivid dreams.
The experience of sleep paralysis and also of hypnogogic imagery is very common.
Hypnogogic imagery is a series of hallucinations that the person has in the moments before they are falling asleep.
They can seem very real and be disturbing or frightening in nature. The naps come whether or not the person is maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
At night the person may sleep fine, but more commonly they will sleep for very long periods as well.
The main difference between idiopathic hypersomnia and narcolepsy is that narcoleptics can take a short nap and wake up refreshed; someone with idiopathic hypersomnia has great difficulty shortening their naps and never wakes up feeling less tired.
What are the treatments for idiopathic hypersomnia?
There are few treatments that are effective for idiopathic hypersomnia. Many people with it develop their own form of treatment by creating unusual ways to wake themselves up from their prolonged naps.
There is research being done on using certain drugs that affect the GABA receptors but as now there are no specific drugs for this condition. Some people respond to stimulants, such as those commonly used to treat ADHD.
The use of stimulants has to be done with caution as it can cause other side effects. It should be noted that while this condition is very rare, it is mostly considered a long term condition and not a lifelong one.
The difference is that someone may experience an episode of idiopathic hypersomnia that may last for 10 or 15 years and then it will end.
Researchers have not been able to identify any changes in the person’s brain when this happens.
One good thing is that by keeping a good sleep hygiene schedule, people can reduce the effect of the idiopathic hypersomnia on their lives.
How is it diagnosed?
Idiopathic hypersomnia is diagnosed by a careful forensic review of the past six months of the person’s sleep habits and routines.
The established criteria for a diagnosis of idiopathic hypersomnia includes having a nightly pattern of regular or excessive sleep (8 to 10 hours), followed by a daily pattern of naps that last at least 4 hours.
This pattern has to exist for 6 consecutive months for it to be determined that the person has idiopathic hypersomnia.
Idiopathic hypersomnia is a very rare disorder. Very often the physician will run several other tests to eliminate other possible causes of the sleep disturbance – such as anemia or other physical problems.
They may also try certain medications that are not associated with the disorder to eliminate the potential of depression or other psychological illness from being the cause.