What does Hypersomnia Mean?

Hypersomnia is what doctors mean by sleep addiction. Sleep addiction manifests itself in an excessive need for daytime sleep, which can manifest itself in very different ways. Those affected are mainly middle-aged men. Hypersomnia usually occurs in connection with other, mostly mental illnesses or with pronounced sleep apnea.

What is hypersomnia?

The central symptom of hypersomnia is daytime sleepiness. The tiredness during the day is very pronounced and does not occur once, but regularly or permanently. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Hypersomnia.

Hypersomnia manifests itself in an increased need for sleep during the day without frequent or prolonged, consciously perceived waking phases during nighttime sleep.

Daytime sleep can manifest itself in very different ways, ranging from brief sleep attacks that afflict the person concerned in a sudden attack, to persistent tiredness throughout the day. Those affected suffer greatly from the clinical picture, since their performance is impaired. Participation in road traffic, for example, is usually no longer possible.

Hypersomnia is divided into mild, moderate and severe hypersomnia based on its severity. In mild hypersomnia, involuntary sleep does not occur every day, in moderate hypersomnia it occurs every day, and in severe hypersomnia it occurs several times a day.


The causes of the sleep addiction are not yet clearly known. What is striking, however, is the frequent simultaneous occurrence of other diseases, such as depression, schizophrenia, cancer, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

A connection between drug and alcohol abuse and sleep addiction has also been observed. The most common cause – as various recordings in sleep laboratories have shown – is sleep apnea. If a patient suffers from sleep apnea, breathing often stops during the night’s sleep. This can happen several times an hour and last for minutes.

The suspension of breathing leads to a lack of oxygen in the body. The night’s sleep is then, without the affected person noticing, not very restful. The constant wake-up situation also causes enormous stress.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The central symptom of hypersomnia is daytime sleepiness. The tiredness during the day is very pronounced and does not occur once, but regularly or permanently. Affected people often cannot or only with difficulty keep themselves awake.

Difficulty concentrating can also be an indication of hypersomnia. As a result, job performance can decrease and the likelihood of errors increases. Poor concentration and tiredness can also be expressed in motor insecurity.

Another possible symptom of hypersomnia is memory problems. These are partly related to the difficulty concentrating. Depending on the disease underlying the hypersomnia, sleep can be perceived as restful or not restful. Narcoleptics typically feel refreshed after a brief daytime sleep, while this may not be the case with other forms of hypersomnia.

Daytime sleepiness often affects the ability of drivers to drive. Depending on the type of hypersomnia, the spectrum ranges from general inattention and a lack of concentration to narcoleptic attacks on falling asleep. Even with hypersomnias other than narcolepsy, drivers can fall into a microsleep.

They fall asleep at the wheel for a few seconds, sometimes without realizing it. Furthermore, psychological symptoms such as [depressed mood|depressed moods]] can occur. Conversely, hypersomnia can also be due to depression, schizophrenia or another mental illness.

Diagnosis & History

In order to be able to make a reliable diagnosis, a stay in a sleep laboratory is advisable. In a sleep laboratory, the patient’s nighttime sleep is monitored. For this purpose, it is connected to the EEG and EKG, which enables the monitoring of brain waves and heart activity.

In addition, movement activity and respiratory flow are recorded. The patient also receives some questionnaires and is subjected to various tests – for example, the pupil size is measured during the night or the ability to concentrate during monotonous activities – which also provide information about his night and day sleep. If all the results are available, an experienced sleep doctor can diagnose “hypersomnia”.

If an organic cause is possible, the tests in the sleep laboratory are followed by internal or psychiatric diagnostics. The course of hypersomnia is very different. In the case of mild hypersomnia, the patient usually does not suffer from the sleepiness, and often does not even perceive it as an illness.

Only when the individual circadian rhythm of the person concerned is disturbed or secondary diseases – such as cardiovascular problems – have occurred due to a disturbed night ‘s sleep, will the person concerned become aware of the disease.


In most cases, hypersomnia occurs in middle-aged men. Those affected suffer from a real sleep addiction. If a high daily need for sleep is not met, the patient feels ill or becomes more irritable. Hypersomnia also has a negative effect on the patient’s psyche and is usually also associated with other psychological complaints.

The patient’s sleep is very deep and lasts for a long time. Getting up is often difficult. It is not uncommon for those affected to also suffer from sleep disorders and therefore need sleep at other irregular times. Everyday life is disrupted by hypersomnia and made more difficult for the patient. In many cases it is no longer possible to do a job or a normal activity.

Furthermore, it can also lead to problems with the heart or the circulatory system of the patient, which can lead to death in the worst case. As a rule, the treatment of hypersomnia is causal and does not lead to any special complications. However, it cannot be predicted how easily the underlying disease can be treated. In most cases, however, life expectancy is not reduced.

When should you go to the doctor?

In phases of higher physical or emotional demands, an increased need for sleep is quite natural. In these cases, a doctor’s visit is not necessary, as normal sleeping behavior usually sets in automatically after the situation has been successfully dealt with. As long as the need for sleep does not exceed nine to ten hours a day, there is no cause for concern. A doctor’s visit is necessary when the need for sleep increases or occurs without a comprehensible reason.

If the person concerned feels exhausted and tired from performing light tasks despite getting enough sleep at night, a doctor should be consulted. If the sleep problems persist for several months, a doctor’s visit is also recommended. Sudden sleep attacks are considered unusual. If the performance of everyday or professional tasks is interrupted by an unexpected fall asleep, the person concerned needs help.

If the person concerned is dazed, shows a depressed mood, suffers from persistent attention deficits or only vaguely perceives environmental influences, a doctor’s visit must be made. If breathing disorders occur, there are more sleep interruptions or if the person concerned never really feels fit despite good sleep hygiene, check-ups are advisable. In addition to a nutrient deficiency, results from a sleep laboratory can help to find the cause.

Treatment & Therapy

Since sleep addiction is usually the result of another illness, it is important to treat the cause. Sleep apnea, one of the most common causes of hypersomnia, is usually triggered by obesity or narrowed airways.

If this is the cause of the sleep addiction, it usually helps to lose weight or to surgically correct or expand the airways. It can also help the sufferer to wear a breathing mask during the night’s sleep, which supports breathing and thus prevents breathing stops.

In extremely rare cases of severe hypersomnia, medication may be given. The drugs – all amphetamines – can overcome sleep addiction, but they have an extremely high potential for addiction. Self-medication is strongly discouraged.

Outlook & Forecast

The prognosis of hypersomnia is linked to the present cause and the overall diagnosis of the patient. If the person concerned suffers from a mental disorder such as anxiety, compulsion, depression or an addiction, there is a risk of the disease becoming chronic. Symptoms are usually only alleviated when the mental illness is treated and emotional stability improves.

In the case of cancer, healing of the causative tumor is necessary for hypersomnia to be reduced or completely reversed. Recovery often occurs only after several years of therapy and is accompanied by phases of a relapse. If the patient suffers from a chronic or progressive disease such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, the prospect of curing the hypersomnia is slim. As the underlying disease progresses, the existing accompanying symptoms manifest themselves. In severe cases, the patient is threatened with an increase in symptoms.

If the hypersomnia is triggered by existing living and accompanying circumstances, a change in everyday processes or environmental influences can lead to the patient being free of symptoms. Sleep hygiene needs to be revised and optimized in these situations. It is often necessary to adapt the daily routine to human needs and to change your mental attitude to everyday challenges so that the sleep problems can be alleviated.


Hypersomnia itself cannot be prevented. Since it is usually the result of another disease – often sleep apnea due to being overweight – it is advisable to keep your body weight low. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is just as helpful as consistently avoiding drugs and eating healthily.


For patients with hypersomnia, it is particularly important to ensure that the rules of sleep hygiene are observed during follow-up care. Above all, this includes a controlled course of the day-night rhythm in connection with compliance with the sleep-wake rhythm. Avoid sleep deprivation and sleep deprivation. The sleep-wake rhythm is to be coordinated and aligned in detail with the respective patient.

In this way, optimal sleeping and waking phases can be firmly established in the 24-hour daily routine. Sleep phases during the daytime phase should be exceptional and should also be coordinated with the patient’s behavior and habits. A sleep-wake or tiredness-wake diary is recommended. This makes it easier for the patient to accommodate his activities in the daily routine in a meaningful and effective way.

Activities and tasks that are part of the routine can then, for example, be shifted to the phases of daytime sleepiness. In addition, a healthy lifestyle is extremely important for patients with hypersomnia. Alcohol should be absolutely avoided due to the tiring effect. A rather light, low-carbohydrate diet distributed over several small meals throughout the day makes sense.

Follow-up care also includes informing immediate family members and the social environment. The patient’s further life planning, for example with regard to training, retraining or work, also plays a decisive role in living with hypersomnia.

You can do that yourself

In the case of a strong need for sleep, the person concerned should take various precautions to avoid complications or an increased risk of accidents. The need for sleep reduces the usual performance and leads to a reduced participation in social life. In order to reduce conflicts in professional and social life, people in the immediate vicinity should be informed about the problems.

The symptoms of the disease are often due to increased stress and dissatisfaction. The general lifestyle should be reviewed and optimized. The intake of food should be improved and should be rich in vitamins and fiber. Being overweight should be avoided and adequate exercise or sporting activities promote general well-being. The consumption of alcohol or nicotine is to be avoided. Stimulants in the form of drugs or excessive drug consumption should also be avoided.

The sleep hygiene is to be changed according to the needs of the person concerned. A visit to the sleep laboratory is helpful and very informative . Sources of interference during the rest and recovery phases must be eliminated. If possible, the daily routine should be well structured and built up regularly. If sudden sleep attacks occur, sources of danger must be eliminated. Participation in road traffic should not take place without an accompanying person. Activities that pose a high risk of injury should also not be carried out without supervision and protective clothing.