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Idiopathic hypersomnia

Hypersomnia - idiopathic; Drowsiness - idiopathic; Somnolence - idiopathic

Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) is a sleep disorder in which a person is excessively sleepy (hypersomnia) during the day and has great difficulty being awakened from sleep. Idiopathic means there is not a clear cause.

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Sleep patterns in the young and aged

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Causes

IH is similar to narcolepsy in that you are extremely sleepy. It is different from narcolepsy because IH doesn't usually involve suddenly falling asleep (sleep attacks) or losing muscle control due to strong emotions (cataplexy). Also, unlike narcolepsy, naps in IH are usually not refreshing.

Symptoms

Symptoms often develop slowly during the teens or young adulthood. They include:

Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will ask about your sleep history. The usual approach is to consider other possible causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Other sleep disorders that may cause daytime sleepiness include:

Other causes of excessive sleepiness include:

Tests that may be ordered include:

A mental health evaluation for depression may also be done.

Treatment

Your provider will likely prescribe stimulant medicines such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, or modafinil. These drugs may not work as well for this condition as they do for narcolepsy.

Other medicines commonly used for narcolepsy include sodium oxybate and newer "wake promoting agents" such as pitolisant and solriamfetol. 

Lifestyle changes that can help ease symptoms and prevent injury include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Discuss your condition with your provider if you have repeated episodes of daytime sleepiness. They may be due to a medical problem that needs further testing.

Related Information

Drowsiness

References

Avidan AY. Sleep and its disorders. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 101.

Dauvilliers Y, Bassetti CLA. Idiopathic hypersomnia. In: Kryger M, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 113.

Nallu S, Benbadis SR. Disorders of sleep. In: Wing EJ, Schiffman FJ, eds. Cecil Essentials of Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 108.

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Review Date: 4/19/2021  

Reviewed By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, VA New Jersey Health Care System, Clinical Assistant Professor, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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