Excessive sleepiness that intrudes on daily functions for a month or more may affect teens and young adults. It is also a common accompaniment to depression. Stimulants and adherence to good sleep routines can alleviate symptoms.


Hypersomnia is characterized by recurrent episodes of excessive daytime sleepiness or prolonged nighttime sleep.

Persons with hypersomnia are compelled to nap repeatedly during the day, often at inappropriate times such as at work, during a meal or in conversation. These daytime naps usually provide no relief from symptoms. Patients often have difficulty waking from a long sleep, and may feel disoriented. Other symptoms may include anxiety, increased irritation, decreased energy, restlessness, slow thinking, slow speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations and memory difficulty. Some patients lose the ability to function in family, social, occupational or other settings.

Hypersomnia may be caused by drug or alcohol abuse, other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea, or dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. In some cases it results from a physical problem, such as a tumor, head trauma, or injury to the central nervous system. Certain medications, or medicine withdrawal, may also cause hypersomnia. Medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, depression, encephalitis, epilepsy or obesity may contribute to the disorder. Some people appear to have a genetic predisposition to hypersomnia; in others, there is no known cause. Hypersomnia typically affects adolescents and young adults.


Symptoms often develop slowly during adolescence or young adulthood.

• Daytime naps that do not relieve drowsiness • Difficulty waking from a long sleep -- may feel confused or disoriented • Increased need for sleep during the day -- even while at work, or during a meal or conversation • Increased sleep time -- up to 14 - 18 hours per day Other symptoms may include anxiety, feeling irritated, low energy, restlessness, slow thinking or speech, loss of appetite, and memory difficulty.

Hypersomnia may be symptomatic of

  • multiple sclerosis
  • depression
  • obesity
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • an injury to the central nervous system resulting from head trauma
  • a side effect of taking a medication or stopping a medication
  • genetics: there may be a genetic predisposition to hypersomnia

Diagnostic Features

  • Excessive sleepiness for at least a month, including prolonged sleep episodes or daytime sleep episodes almost daily
  • Excessive sleepiness severe enough to cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of life
  • Excessive sleepiness does not occur exclusively during the course of another sleep disorder or mental disorder
  • Excessive sleepiness is not due to the physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition


  • Self-imposed short sleep time
  • Medications (tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antihistamines)
  • Sleep disorders (such as obstructive sleep apnea isolated sleep paralysis and restless leg syndrome)
  • Other medical conditions (such as hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia, and hypo/hypernatremia)


Stimulants, such as amphetamine, methylphenidate, and modafinil, may be prescribed. Other drugs used to treat hypersomnia include clonidine, levodopa, bromocriptine, antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Changes in behavior—for example avoiding night work and social activities that delay bed time—and diet may offer some relief. Patients should avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep:

Set a schedule:

Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning

Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. Sleeping in on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it resets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.


Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about five to six hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol:

Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, nonherbal teas, diet drugs and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep.

Relax before bed:

A warm bath, reading or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities, such as relaxation techniques, with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.

Sleep until sunlight:

If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body's internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.

Don't lie in bed awake:

If you can't get to sleep, don't just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.

Control your bedroom enviroment:

  • Use comfortabe bedding
  • Block out distracting noise
  • Reserve bed for sleep and sex
  • Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature. Extreme temperatures may disrupt or prevent sleep.

See a doctor if your sleeping problem continues:

If you have trouble falling asleep night after night, or if you always feel tired the next day, then you may have a sleep disorder and should see a physician. Your primary care physician may be able to help you; if not, you can probably find a sleep specialist at a major hospital near you. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

Sleep research is expanding and attracting more and more attention from scientists. Researchers now know that sleep greatly influences our waking hours, and they realize that we must understand sleep to fully understand the brain. Innovative techniques, such as brain imaging, can now help researchers understand how different brain regions function during sleep and how various activities and disorders affect sleep. Understanding the factors that affect sleep may lead to revolutionary new therapies for sleep disorders and to ways of overcoming jet lag and the problems associated with shift work.


  • DSM-IV TR (2000).
  • Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed.
  • University of Maryland Medical Pages
Last reviewed 03/05/2015